Laughing Surf’s Exaltation

Author’s Note: When I dug up the original .rtf of this story, it was dated 09/28/2009. For reference, that’s about the time we were playing The Burning Campaign. As usual, I’ve made a few tweaks since then to bring it up to “modern standards”. Similarities to a story in the 1st Edition Lunars book are acknowledged.

***

Midnight on the Western Ocean.  The storm that had ravaged the water that afternoon had abated, and the clouds covering the sky were just starting to drift apart.  In the open water a swath of flotsam was floating on the ocean’s surface.  That morning it had been a boat; now it was a collection of splintered planks, and its sole occupant had found refuge atop one of the wider pieces.

Refuge, yes, but no safety.  For as Brilliant Coral looked around, she could see only the horizon in every direction.  She was out of sight of any land, and all her maps and drinking water had gone with the rest of her small craft.  That morning she had set off alone, running away from home, escaping an arranged marriage to a partner she had found unacceptable.  She might survive the night on her little raft, but in the morning the relentless sun would bring her only burned skin and dehydration.  Unless some other boat passed this way, she would surely be dead within days or hours.

The clouds parted and revealed the moon shining brightly in the sky.  Its light painted a bright sparkling trail across the water.  With little else left to do, Brilliant Coral sat and watched the light dancing on the water’s surface for a while.  She tried closing her eyes once, wondering if she might be able to sleep, but it was no use.

When she opened her eyes again, the moonlight seemed to be brighter.  As she watched it, the sparkling light near the horizon began to look like a humanoid form, walking towards her along the lit path.  Amazed, she sat silently and watched as the figure approached.  As it got closer she could see its features: it appeared to be a tall young woman with very long hair.  The small amount of clothing she had appeared to be strands of kelp, and like the rest of her, it was formed entirely of silver light, so dense that she almost seemed to be solid, as if she were made of frosted glass.  She was very tall, perhaps ten feet, and when she finally stood before the raft, she knelt so that she and Brilliant Coral could look each other right in the eyes.

Brilliant Coral was speechless.  Undoubtedly this was a deity, and should not go ungreeted, but she could find no words.

So it was Luna who spoke first.  “Running away, little one?”

Brilliant Coral found the nerve to nod her head, and when Luna inclined hers a bit, as if asking why, she finally managed to speak: “My home could not be home anymore.”

The goddess nodded, with a knowing, sad smile on her face, as if she knew such a pain herself…or had known others who had felt it.  Then the smile became teasing.  “And this is the home you prefer?”

What a terrible question.  Brilliant Coral had set out intending to live with the Tya, where she would have been free of arranged marriages and long days trapped in a house.  Being stranded in the open ocean had not been her choice.  Unless this goddess meant to change the situation, it would mean her death.  But…if she had stayed at home, her life would have been unlivable, and that would have been even worse.

She spent long enough reaching her conclusion that Luna did not wait for her to articulate the answer.  No doubt she knew it already.  “Tell me, child,” she said, leaning a bit closer, “What would you ask of a goddess now?”

Brilliant Coral took one more glance around at the boundless horizon, and the sea that was holding her hostage, and blurted out the first answer that jumped into her mind.  “…A pair of fins!”

And Luna laughed, not with the mocking laughter of a deity amused by the small wit of mortals, but like a mother whose child has expressed a truth in words clearer and plainer than any an adult could muster.  Slowly she placed her hand beside Brilliant Coral’s head and leaned in so that their faces were inches apart.

“Granted.”  And with that she gave Brilliant Coral a gentle kiss on her forehead.

Brilliant Coral felt a shock like lightning pass through her, and she lost her balance on the plank and fell backwards into the water.  But the salt of the water did not burn her tongue, nor did the water feel as cold as she remembered, nor did it feel awkward and heavy around her anymore.

And now at last she found her voice and tried to speak, meaning to say thank you, or ask what had happened to her…

…but all that came out was a string of squeaks and clicks, fast and high-pitched, as only a dolphin can hear.

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