Kirsty found herself emerging into a library once through the passage. She looked around the dimness, filled with the scent of old scrolls. How the paper, papyri, and parchment could survive underwater she wasn’t sure. On the same note, she could no longer tell if she were underwater or not. She moved a hand experimentally through the atmosphere surrounding her and noted the thickness and the thinness moving her fur. Was it both at once somehow? How?
With a flick of her tail she had the unsettling feeling of both legs and tail working at once, pulling her attention even thinner than it was. Ironically this also seemed to sharpen her attention to this point in time she experienced, lurching her stomach.
Her attention settled on a very large tome in the middle of the room that seemed to be made of a combination of all modes of inscription, shifting back and forth as it pleased, including seaweed paper and even stone tablets. It shifted slower under her gaze, yet not staying in any one form long. Refusing to, as if it were itself alive and cognizant of her intruding gaze.
Kirsty made her way toward the tome, drawn by the placement. As soon as she came in front of it a form solidified and looked disturbingly familiar. The brown fur of Father Ronan’s tome waited for her touch. This was clearly a different section of his sundered pelt as the markings were all wrong compared to the one from Caer Carrick’s library, but somehow she knew it was his all the same. Carefully she opened what she had come to know as “The Book of Seals.” Instead of the familiar yellowed parchment paper on land this paper was made of bleached seaweed.
“Father Ronan?” she asked softly “What are you doing here?”
“I am and I am not here, Child.” The familiar text spread across the blank page. “I also am not alone. As to what I am doing here, it is the same as I always have been. Chronicling. Sharing. Teaching. Waiting.”
“Several of us are here, not just someone of your species, Priestess.” Another hand spread across the page.
“At least one representative of each major sea species. Perhaps at some point others will join us when they feel ready,” a third and far more crabbed script scrabbled across the page.
“We give part of ourselves. I, as you figured out already, gave my skin back to Her. This is the Master Tome. What you found in the library is another copy of my volume of the ‘Pearls of Sea and Stone,’ but currently only is keyed to what is needed for you since it originally went to Caer Carrick from my abbey. There are other copies bearing my fur, as I know you’ve already intuited.”
“Could I learn what I need to know about all of the species?” Kirsty leaned in, her fingers stroking hungrily at the edges. “And what about the herbology and lost potion secrets?”
“In theory.” All three wrote to her at once. “And over time. Not today though. You won’t have much time here.”
Kirsty looked around in confusion. Things looked like they should for a library. It was only then that she felt an oily aftertaste, felt it seeping into her fur and allowing frigid sullied water access to her skin. The room shifted and darkened. Books gave way to statues and the ghost of a drill bit lanced the floor and struck the heart of the sea. Screams of rage and fear filled the water and forms swam out from the city, her awareness filling the area in a moment as the point in time replayed itself.
A Triton reared in front of her between Man’s Lance and the Tome with shield and sword despite knowing such tools inadequate.
Time bent again. The city lay dead and quiet. Statues stood guarding the prize and waited around the Tome. The Tome waited, giant sized on a lectern while oil seeped and her mother’s blood still lingered in the water trying to overwrite and correct what had been done here. Kirsty’s eyes fell on the wounded skin of the planet, Mara’s waters seeping down into the elder sister as much as the oil seeped up, a mingling of blood. Her hand went to the broken metal.
“I need to find someone that can cap this right. I’m a water witch, not someone that knows how to make a bit of metal into a plug.”
“That you can do later back in the human realm. This tome needs moved. Mara bids it be you.” The statues’ gaze bored into Kirsty. The samebito regarded her with his shark eyes. “We will not be able to hold a filter much longer, and you were expected quite some time ago.”
Kirsty’s gaze went to the flat gaze of the samebito statue. The disapproval there struck deep. She was well aware that she was flailing about and had most likely made many mistakes in this process, and likely failing her tests. The added weight sank her heart. “Where to?” She struggled to keep strength in her voice. Somehow she could not abide the idea of seeming weak to the essences of the many other mer races.
“Mother Mara will guide you if you seek her.” His jaw set.
An octopus mer raised a tentacle and his weapon more to press against man’s influence. “You are already seeking her, make no more side trips. Be resolute. Take the book and go.”
Turning her eyes back to the Master Tome she discovered it had already closed. The size daunted her but she lifted it anyway to see if she could lift it, expecting it to remain in the lectern due to how heavy it had to be. To her surprise it came easily and even shrank to a size she could easily fit into her sporran. Kirsty slipped it in and surveyed the room. Her mother’s blood still struggled to correct the ocean around them.
“It’s not enough. There’s too much.” Her stomach turned again. Her eyes fell on a sharp rise in the middle of the lectern. Had it been there beneath the Master Tome the entire time? Her hand reached for the edge. A force drew her palm to rest lightly. A small incision, a little blood, a small offering of life force to preserve what could be saved. A promise to return.
Kirsty withdrew her palm and clenched her hand. A breath later she felt the planetary matrix activate, the lighting of the statues’ eyes and the crystals formerly unseen. A passage of light opened around her and a song wove somewhere at the end, the new location. Her flippers propelled her forward into the surf unbidden.
The room went dark again and the filter the statues held grew smaller, holding as best they could for physical care and for the one tasked with their own transport to eventually come.