Whispers in the Waves - an EQ story
Wind-whipped sand and dust abraded their faces as they battled, deep in the desert of the Plane of Storms. Many hours passed as they felled cactoren after scorponnis after rockstorm, and still longer before heated rain descended over the mountains to cool their baked skin and armor. Even Lectum, in his spectral Arch Lich form, was showing signs of heat sensitivity. Stoic as ever, Lanadena blessed their arms and bodies, and cast decrepifying magicks upon the enemy creatures, uttering not even a squeak of complaint.
Arrana rested upon the piled packs she carried around from adventure to adventure, sipping gently from the fresh water Unu had gathered from the dillo pond. Lectum had been gathering, as the creatures tended to travel in groups, and from experience, the Knight knew her repertoire would not give her the ability to seperate them safely.
Deep into the night they battled, near tireless and always alert.
Eventually, they decided to pack up for the night and go their seperate ways to rest. Arrana stayed behind at the portal stone to Storms, briefly speaking to Lanadena, as Unu headed back to the Castle.
Resting quietly after her Chieftess moved onto another hunting party, the elder Procellae stared out over the ocean of Tranquility, pondering.
The impeccable orb of the moon set, and shortly Arrana felt warmth of the coming dawn slide down her neck. Deep dark night gave way to the rushing brightness of day, and a chill came over the woman. Blue crystal sparkled before her, the sun's rays refracting through the clear waters.
Peace enveloped the Knight as she stood, glancing around, and quickly stripped to her underthings, when she didn't spy any observers. Shaking her shoulder-length hair free of her confining helm, she quickly ran her fingers through it, and piled her things neatly on the stone pad. As she dove into the cool waters, the sun peeked above the mountains, illuminating beneath the waves.
Out she swam, hundreds of body lengths from the Storms portal, until the sun, framed above the dragons protecting the Plane of Water, shone on her back. Slowing to tread water, she turned about, facing dawn's glory, and shook the hair from her face. She closed her eyes, the brightness of the sun slipping through her softly-shut lids, heating her brain gently. Cool water streamed across her olive skin, warming in the sun, sliding from chin and nose to her chest, and back into the ocean. Soft breezes tickled the back of her neck, strewn with damp locks, fresh bits of salty air dancing in her nose, clearing her mind.
Back and forth her hands sluiced through the water, just enough to keep her head and shoulders above the surface. Arrana hadn't enjoyed a swim like this in far too long. She'd always been a strong swimmer, and hoisting the Windrider's Lance day after day, battle after battle, helped keep up her stamina. Gently, she sighed, relaxing, dawn's rays drying her face, salt softly encrusting on her skin. Smiling, she felt little flakes fall off, the breeze turning about and blowing the rest from her smooth skin.
Suddenly, the light sharpened against her face, but oddly, it felt... different. A wave brushed against her back, swaying her in the water, and a second rode up her neck. The third cooled her earlobes, and the fourth crested over her head.
The sun flashed.
Arrana found herself walking upon an empty stretch of sandy beach. The softness of the sand, if indeed that substance could be considered such, was very familiar to her. Glancing to her left, she saw the huts of the Kerrans she, her mother and sister had stayed with for all those years, lost to the sea. Strangely, she noticed, they were empty, and none of the feline creatures were about on what seemed to be a rather beautiful day.
Clear sky sparkled above and salt-tinged breeze tickled her nose as the softly cresting waves marched along the beach. The Knight felt an odd rustling about her feet, and, glancing down, she gasped. Her usual immaculate silver battle armor had been replaced by a flowing gown of sea green. She knew she wasn't in the Manse, because the usual feeling of someone intruding in her dreams didn't prickle at the extremities of her mind. Then she remembered her swim.
"Of course, you do look quite lovely in green," a familiar voice called.
Turning slowly, with a smile, Arrana replied before even focusing on the voice's owner, "Good day, Braitha dear." Her motion stopped as she took in her heartsister: clad in a similar gown, a shimmering blue, almost of the deepest ocean. Her tightly braided hair lay across her shoulder, her feet bare.
"I can see why you enjoy walking barefooted on the beach, Arrana. It's rather like walking in the grass on a dewy morning." Something odd about Braitha tickled in the Erudite's heart - it was her, and yet, something was off.
"Do you like your lovely blue gown?" Arrana asked the Fier'dal. "You look quite striking in it."
"Shhh, don't ever tell Mileron. He's still never stopped taunting me about wearing blue, you know, and in truth, I'm not wearing it now. But that's an explanation for later." The Ranger approached her, kissing both of the Knight's cheeks, and guided her to sit on a driftwood log nearby.
"Is now, later?" Arrana's patience for visions and portents was rather short, because reading between the lines had never been her strong suit.
"No, dear sister." Braitha smiled. "I just wanted to sit here quietly with you and watch the tide rise, for a few moments." She took Arrana's hands in her own, and looked out to sea.
The sun hadn't moved in the sky since Arrana had appeared here, but the ocean moved and the breeze still glanced across her tightly-clad body.
After some time, the tide rose, the end of each wave nearly tickling each woman's feet, as they sat together.
"Ever since you were young, you've been a protector of the ocean, Arrana. Do you know why?"
Still gazing at the sea, Arrana replied, "Both my sister and I were born on the sea, and after leaving that boat, lived for years on an island of Kerrans who worshipped the OceanLord. We were shown the tenets of his worship, and we took up the duties of protecting the village, when we discovered we had... certain talents."
Chuckling, the Elf turned to the Erudite and smiled. "Yes, but why? Haven't you ever questioned why you found that island, or why when you left the ship, the storm stopped? Or even why after spending so much time ridding the Harbor of Dulak of its defiling pirate population, you gained so much power? And again, when slaying the undead of Veksar?"
"Well, it behooves all Norrathians to go forth and hunt to become strong."
"But strong for what?" Her smokey eyes piercing, the Ranger seemed to be reading something in Arrana's crystal blue orbs.
Gently shrugging, and turning more to face her sister, Arrana replied, "Strong to defeat stronger foes?"
Braitha sighed, and vanished.
"For as much as you've learned, Arrana, you sure can be pretty dense sometimes." The musical quality of the voice, and the sarcasm it betrayed, made her purse her lips in a half-smile. Glancing over her shoulder, the shiny blue of the Minstrel's armor glinted from the sun's rays.
"Thanks. As I was saying, even though we love you, you sure are a pain in the rump sometimes. Unu would understand, but you've always seen life from a black and white point of view. Life doesn't work that way. In fact, there are many shades of grey, some of which you've lived through, and others which you've battled against." Mileron crossed his legs, and floated, seated, in mid-air between Arrana and the ocean.
"Do you recall your battle against Sir Lucan D'Lere?"
"Do you know why you did it? Why you battled him, that is."
"He was evil..."
The Bard sighed, and wiggled his hand. A large tome opened from his palm, and he began to read.
"The Soulfire blade, watched by the Temple of Life of Qeynos, is an enchanted blade of fire. Inside the blade itself are stored the souls of many necromancers and shadowknights. It is unknown exactly how this sword came to be forged. The sword glows with a Holy Light, and also can heal the wielder." Pausing a breath, the Bard continued.
"Many evil Knights tried to steal the Blade, including one Xicotl (whom I'm sure you remember battling), who actually got into the Temple of Life, and damaged the Soulfire on his retreat. The remains of the Blade were given to the Temple of Truth in Freeport for safekeeping, until one could approach Brother Hayle of the Temple of Life with Proof of Nobility."
Arrana listened intently, and as Mileron paused, asked, "But what does that have to do with your question?"
Glaring at the Knight, the Bard closed the book shut with a loud clap, and glared at her. "It is the mission of every Knight to defeat evil, is it not?"
"And to prevent evil from becoming stronger, yes?"
Arrana simply nodded.
"Well, from what I've heard, hunting with paladins and clerics over the years, this one sword, in addition to being a stepping stone in achieving the Fiery Defender, is much more powerful than it seems at face value. I'm not entirely sure why, but it brings... something special... shows that the Knight is ready."
"Ready for what?"
Mileron smiled cryptically, and vanished as Braitha had.
"I never have been a fan of heat, you know."
Another familiar voice, thought Arrana, grinning. "Hello, Damai-dear." Turning about, she saw the shamaness shaking sand from her boots, leaning against one of the few palm trees nearby. Suir, her spirit wolf companion, was nowhere to be seen. The wind blew the woman's waist-length hair in ripples across a soft, cream-colored sun dress.
"Why couldn't you have a premonition or a vision of Everfrost, or at least the mountains in Stonebrunt?" The much taller Northwoman finally slipped her boot back onto her foot, and joined the Knight on the driftwood bench.
"Well, it doesn't seem this vision is of my own devising, Damai. After all, I don't recall ever having Mileron in any visions." Even as she said this, Arrana felt a twinge in her mind, knowing somehow that she was wrong, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't remember any.
"That's alright, Arrana. Just think of this as... a way to get at your innermost thoughts."
"Why?" Honestly perplexed, the Erudite tilted her head slightly, taking in the countenance of the other woman. "What is this all proving? Am I missing something?"
"No, dear," Damai reached her hand out to Arrana's, taking them together in hers, "you did miss something. Everything you've experienced in your life has been viewed with ..." The shamaness paused, blushing slightly, "a certain disregard for shades of grey. You look at everything you do, all the people you meet, in black and white. There is no middle ground. The same as I'm not able to discern why someone would love me for me, and not my body or my abilities, the person in side. You have a bit of that, I think, Arrana. But you also have the unyielding disability, the unbending will, of not seeing the forest for the trees, the snowstorm for the flakes."
Arrana nearly gaped at the younger woman, a soft blush flowing across her face.
"Well, it seems I've flustered you, much as you've flustered me at times."
Closing her mouth, Arrana just nodded.
"No matter how often I adventure with you, your sister, Commander Braitha, Chieftess Lanadena, or even Master Mileron, I've never been able to understand why you would choose me, when there're so many other people available to spend time with." Damai sighed, squeezing the shorter woman's hands in hers again.
"You need to understand, Arrana, as I'm learning, that it is not the abilities people have. It is not the armor they wear (nice dress, by the way), or the crest they hold dear. It's for the purposes you use them for. The family you hold dear. The friends you keep, and the lessons you learn. These, dear Arrana, are not lessons lightly learned, and unfortunately..." Grinning, Damai stood, still holding Arrana's hands captive, and leaned to gaze directly into the Knight's crystal blue eyes. "Well, right now, we're beating you over the head with them." She lay the captured hands back in the shorter woman's lap, and disappeared.
"I've noticed, Lady Arrana, that you need a man in your life." The baritone timbre didn't immediately register in the Knight's mind. "Or woman, but then, I'm glad Iamera felt more inclined to the former."
Grinning as the other chuckled to himself, Arrana turned around. "I've noticed that all my friends who are appearing do so behind me. Is it so difficult to show up where I can easily see you, instead of trying to startle me?"
"Perhaps look at it thusly. You're having a vision. Visions tend to follow the path they're proscribed, however, do require outside assistance, such as that from the person having the vision. Since you're not giving the Vision the answer it requires of you... it needs to pick how best to represent that which it aims to accomplish."
Donnan came around the driftwood from the tree, and squatted in the sand. The Northman's hair seemed lighter than Arrana remembered it, and his eyes glowed with paternal pride. "The Vision has a point, to be sure. But you also may have gathered the representations of your friends here are... possible future echoes of What We Will Become. Or they. Whichever makes it easier for you to think of."
"But why are you telling me this? I would have thought Lady Lanadena would come to instruct me on how to interact with my Vision."
Blinking slowly, Donnan smiled a half-smile, and replied, "The Chieftess has something more important to say. You've known her longer, hold her in the highest regard, and the Source knows that." Arrana could hear the accent the man put when he said 'the Source,' and she began to wonder.
"The Source of my Vision?"
"You really needed to ask that?"
"You still haven't figured out who it, he, or she is, have you." He sighed, looking down at the sand, then looked back up, eyes dull with disappointment.
"I have my suspicions."
Donnan shook his head, and slowly faded.
"Suspicions aren't good enough."
Still staring at the space the shaman vacated, Arrana replied without looking about. "You don't know about the last vision I had. You can't imagine how painful it was for me. You would never guess who it came from. So you can imagine my trepidation when this one started. I didn't ask for this."
"I do know. I had it too. I didn't have it in the same place as you, well because after all, I'm on another plane of existence, but I did have it..."
Arrana whipped around. "If you had it too, why can't we do something about it? Why her? Why me? If it truly is the end of what we know... why are we expected to not try to stop it? After all we've been through, you expect us to stand aside and let what was shown, become what I'll need to live with, forever?"
The taller man, skin as dark as Arrana's, his customary Erudite hood laying at the nape of his neck, crouched in front of the woman on the log.
"You will fight it. You all will fight it. It will not be in vain, you know, especially since you're fighting with and for the ones you love." Tears began streaming down his cheeks as he continued on, voice unperturbed by the emotions wracking his heart. "I've been doing the same thing. I know you can't see it, can't feel it, but the time will come soon when you will realize that... losing me was the safest thing to do... for our family."
The Knight sat there, grief stricken, weeping quietly.
"You will be required to save her," he said. "You, your heart-sister, and others will join you, though not in the way you may expect, and certainly not in the forms you're comfortable with."
Arrana opened her mouth to speak, but was quieted by a pair of fingers placed gently on her lips. His blue-green eyes burned with his love for her.
"You may not accept it. You do not want it. But it needs to be done. You need to be strong, Arrana, for your sister, your mother, your family. Be as strong and willful as I know you can be." He mustered a grin. "After all, you are my daughter."
The two fell together into a father-daughter hug... Made only more poignant by their silent realization that they've never embraced physically, but only spiritually, in their dreams and visions.
Arrana's father backed up slightly, and brushed the tears from her cheeks.
"I have a gift to give to you, with the Oceanlord's grace. I give you my love. The Oceanlord will shape that love into something... wonderful. I know nothing can replace what I've missed and lost over the last years, but... I hope to make you happy."
Arrana nodded, and as a final tear rolled from her eye, her father leaned forward to kiss it away...
And she was blinded by another flash of light, finding herself treading water again in the Plane of Tranquility.
Arrana sighed, and looked about.
From the position of the sun, she realized that not more than a few seconds had to have passed, for the entirety of her vision.
Swallowing the lump of grief in her throat, she wriggled her nose to break the dried salt free and began to swim for shore.
A strange sound caught her attention - almost the sound of a horse's hooves on dry land. But I'm dozens of yards away... she thought.
She blinked again, and from the sunlight's fringes galloped a huge white stallion, just barely touching the surface of the water as he moved in ever-smaller circles around the swimming woman.
Towering over her, down in the water, he came to a stop, and neighed, pawing at the water in front of Arrana, causing the waves to seperate and break away from her.
Ducking down, Arrana launched herself from the water with a powerful heave, wrapped her arm about the stallion's neck, and swung herself onto his back.
The steed swung his head back, to look at his rider, eyes shining a familiar blue-green...