Episode Thirteen – White Cap

Episode Thirteen – White Cap
I looked to the sea to remember, and she did not disappoint.”
-Herron Huron of the Merfolk

 

Come child, Ranseur’s voice echoed in Taja’s head. You should have found it by now.

Taja’s lips curled to one side, and her gaze stiffened. She was used to the lady’s magical telepathy invading her senses but it was no longer welcome. Ugh. Will I ever be able to keep her out of my mind? Better yet, where is that cave? Careful, don’t disturb the sand. She swam along the bottom of the lake, making a second pass at the crater’s pocked wall. This time she slowed in her approach, her moves more deliberate.

The crater ran deep, conical at the surface but narrowing as it neared the floor. As if some giant had dropped a funnel into the lake in the distant past. She shot down in a vertical dive until she was almost at the floor, and scanned the rocks. There. An opening in an otherwise plain rock wall. Aha! The cave!

Clever little Taja.

The girl smiled and her face softened, nothing but blackness in front of her. She flicked her tail and rotated, righting herself and spinning, her hands reaching for the mouth of the cave. For a moment, she hesitated. The cave was darker than spilled ink on a page, and she couldn’t see more than an arm’s length in front.

I can do this. Taja tucked a few floating strands of hair behind her ear and drifted into the opening. The faint light faded to nothing a few feet in forcing her to feel her way along the wall. She tensed, then forced herself to relax and propelled herself into darkness.

It was disorienting not being able to see anything at all. Anything could be down here with me, and I wouldn’t even know it until it was too late. She shook herself out of that train of thought and blinked rapidly, trying to see through the inky blackness when suddenly her eyes began to itch. Taja rubbed madly at them until the itching ceased, took a deep breath and relaxed – then stared. I can see! She pushed away from the wall and swam slowly into the cave, not seeing much of anything, until beams of light streaked down from above. She swam out into the open water and drifted up.

As she broke through the surface and took a deep breath of air, her eyes started itching again – but the itch faded rapidly and her sight returned to normal. She bobbed for a moment and looked around. Sunlight cascaded down into the pocket cave, from high above through breaks in the cavern’s ceiling, and she shaded her eyes from the glistening rays. Her hands grabbed at a ledge, one just barely big enough for her to sit on. She grinned and hoisted herself onto the smooth rocks. I did it! Now… She looked around again. Where is it? She can’t have sent me down here just to find a ledge. What am I looking for and where is it?

Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glint of something shiny far below her at the edge of where the sunlight reached. She craned her neck to get a better look. A bottle! A glass bottle. That has to be it! But… how do I get to it?

Below her, resting in an outcropping of slippery stone far out of her reach, sat a shiny, blue bottle.

She grunted as she slid back into the water. I swear it wasn’t there before, surely I would have seen it. She’s magic, I wonder if she waited to make sure I was past it before putting it there. She dove down, then floated in the water, considering. The treasure sat wedged between the rocks, at an angle that prevented her from getting a good grip on it. Taja tugged once then twice, frowned at the bottle, and tried again. No use. It stayed wedged. Frustration built as she tried a few more times, then inspiration dawned and, using her tail for purchase, she managed to yank hard enough to pull the bottle free.

You’ve done it, my girl! The lady’s voice rang in her head. Enjoy your reward.

Taja rolled her eyes at the lady, but clutched the bottle close anyway, and returned to the lip of the ledge. Climbing up onto it once more she sat, inspecting the vial while her body morphed back into human form. Her reward was flat on its bottom but horned and translucent, depicting the shape of a wave. The top was stoppered with a blue cork that matched the color of the waters of the Rasmanian sea. There was a salt-stained leather strap attached to it, one that she could throw over her shoulder in order to carry the bottle like a canteen.

It looks empty. It’s pretty, though. I suppose I could put water, or maybe wine, in here if I’m thirsty after a performance. She shook it and almost dropped it at the feel of some sort of liquid washing around inside. It’s not empty! She peered harder. But it sure looks empty. But… this isn’t like the magical bird? What magic is this? It’s just a container. Her face quirked and she uncorked the vial, breathing deeply of the smell of the sea that wafted from it. Did she bottle the ocean or something? She turned the vial over, and dripped some water onto her hands.

With the rush of a wave, the liquid cascaded onto her hand and through her fingers. She gasped and braced herself on the ledge. To her surprise, it didn’t drain down the wall, but instead puddled in front of her and then slowly rose, taking the shape of the bottle.

Taja’s eyes widened, and she smiled, then sighed as she sensed Ranseur’s magic surrounding the animated pool of water as the lady’s voice returned.

This is my gift to you. Your homecoming gift Taja. Welcome back to the sea.”

What is it?” Taja murmured aloud, running her gaze around the standing wave. It undulated and she felt like it was watching her.

It’s an Aquine, and this one is yours. He belongs to you. Speak to him as you speak to me. He will listen to your commands, protect you, and guide you at times.”

Taja studied the bubbling creature that ebbed and flowed in front of her, like a wave out of water, for several more seconds, and then reached out with her mind. Hello.

The aquine dipped itself into a small bow.

Taja’s brows rose, and her smile grew. My name is Taja. What’s yours? The creature bubbled in front of her, and she giggled as she reached out to touch it. You don’t have a name. Well, that won’t do. I think I am going to name youShe leaned back and considered. Names like Puddle or Waterdrop floated in and out of her head, and then an image of majestic, foam crowned waves filled her vision for a brief moment.“I’ve got it! I’m going to name you White Cap!”

The creature stood straight like a miniature wall of water, its crest turning a shimmering, foamy white.

Taja laughed and then pursed her lips in thought. I wonder what else you can do?

Episode Thirteen – White Cap 1

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