Firefly Fish: Ch 19

Firefly Fish by Chapel Orahamm, water with bubbles

“Saeesar, Keris never had plans of letting you go.” Pursha blocked our way from the cave, coming down to our level such that her massive eyes wouldn’t leave my sight.

“How does he plan on retaining my services?” Saeesar hedged, sheilding me from Pursha at this announcement.

“A keeper charm. He had a member of the Council put it on you when you were still very young. He used it to make sure you would be drawn to return to the nesting grounds if you ever felt compelled to leave.” Pursha folded herself into a large mound, curling her tail until she settled her humanoid upper half into it like my mother would do in her skirts and petticoats in her rocking chair in the evenings.

All of Saeesar’s fins flattened at the announcement. The current turned cold at the statement. “Keeper charm?”

Pursha ducked. “I’m so sorry, Saeesar. I don’t know how you would get away from here if your intentions were to go back to your home waters.”

“Can I ask something?” I stepped around Saeesar’s defensive form. He cast a censuring glance my way, what I suspected was a bid for me to hide myself in the crevices of the cave and disappear so that Pursha would forget I existed.

“Marin Kraken-child?” She flattened herself further until she lay across her tail, like Victoria would lay on a pillow on the floor to read her book for school.

“Is a Keeper charm problematic?” I took Saeesar’s hand if only to still the twitch in his tail.

“It can’t be broken. And it’s against the Antomnus code!” Saeesar’s hand tightened around mine and his muscles tensed.

“I am sorry, Saeesar. It cannot be undone. I could not prevent it either. Keris brought you home from the court, and it was already on you.” Pursha apologized. Saeesar deflated in my hand, crumpling to the bottom of the cave floor. His fins lost their rigid line.

“Show me how a charm works.” My teeth clicked in the silence.

Pursha regarded me skeptically. “Why?”

“Because I’m gonna drown in about five minutes if you don’t, and I’m not having Saeesar see me do that.” I stepped in front of the Bet-tah’s collapsed form.

“Drown? Surely not. You are Kraken child.” She flicked her hand to dismiss the statement, her current wavering my place.

“Show me,” I demanded again.

A thin mist of bubbles escaped her. “You care more for yourself than Saeesar if you would move a conversation from us talking about him to yourself.”

“What are the rules to charms? What can’t be broken? What can be bent?” I pressed.

“Settle yourself, Kraken child. Here, a simple breathing spell. That is what you want?” She approached closer, holding out a large grey hand for me to look into. A small green wheel of light bounced in her palm, spirals and geometric shapes circled within it.

I picked up a stick and flattened out a portion of the sand in the cave. “Can you hold that until I’ve drawn it?”

“Yes?” She leaned over me to watch me work. The intricacy in the pattern felt familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.

“What about another one. Give me another one, what everyone needs to know here.” I would ask her for the finer detail on how to cast it in a while.

“You’re singing, Marin,” Saeesar’s lifeless voice crept up my shoulders.

“I’ll be screaming here in a minute if I don’t get a grasp of something down here.” I hedged.

“Heal.” Pursha provided another green spinning wheel for me to trace out in the sand next to the one I had studiously copied.

A chipped texture ran through my skin. Splintering needles brushed along my joints. “Right. I have the image. How do I cast it.”

“You will it. It’s in you. It’s in all who are part of Autumnos. I don’t know how else to explain it?” Pursha’s own voice deflated at that announcement.

“How do your calves learn?” I pressed, studying the first circle, writing ‘Breath’ next to it.

“By watching the adults when we cast it. We show it like we did. Seeing it a few times is enough to imprint it.” She scratched at her head.

“Helpful. Very helpful.” I crouched to stare at the pattern, willing it to commit to memory. Tracing the lines, a sensation, one different from the splintering, unnerving tell of a charm breaking, eased through my veins. “Movement. It’s movement. It’s like watching silverfish in a shole. It doesn’t feel like there is a pattern, and yet it’s at the…” I flicked the tips of my fingers across the corners in the image. A beat formed in my breastbone as I followed the corners. “It’s a pentatonic scale.”

“A what?” Pursha asked.

“It’s music. It’s symbolic notes.” I looked up at her, the realization fascinating. I floated to Saeesar, moving him from his misery. “Come here.”

“What?” His morose demeanour was understandable in the circumstance.

“I’m singing, right? I almost always am, yes?” I pressed for his attention.

“It tends to be a subtle hum unless you get scared or are enjoying yourself. Why?” He cast a questioning eye at the circle on the cave floor.

“Do I sing if I’m looking at this?” I pointed to a corner in the circle.

“Yes? Why?”

“Does it change when I go to this one?” I pointed to the next image in the charm.

“Yes, what are you thinking?” He pressed up closer to me.

“Here, no. You aren’t illiterate. You do have writing. It’s in your charms. It’s music. It’s the sound in that organ in my head. I heard it when Taigre was trying to communicate with me before he messed with my head.”

“But I can’t see that as words, like you see words, Marin.” Saeesar pointed at the circle.

“Here, no.” I pulled myself up to rest my forehead against his iase.

“What are you doing?” Saeesar baulked at my invasion into his space.

“Caste Breathe for me.” I closed my eyes and waited. Lights filled my head, purples and greens, light ecru and deep reds. Stars filtered through the waves in the images behind my eyes. Deep notes swept in under a set of high notes that elicited snowflakes in my memories. The sound of the A on a mandolin string.

“It’s a song. It’s there.” I let go of his head and moved back to give him room.

“Do you want me to cast this on you?” He blinked, still holding the glowing charm in his hand.

“No. Tell me how to get the glowing thing. I can hear the song now.” I hummed the bars that the song had, drawing the circle in the space in front of me with my finger, catching each of the geometric corners in the pattern as the image built in my head. A snowflake. It came to me, crystal clear, the edges floating away in the night.

A green ring, twice that of what Pursha had produced floated above my hands. The pattern twisted with strands of blue and purple. “It’s Breathe, right?” I didn’t dare take my eyes from it, but I wanted one of the two in the cave to tell me yes before I cast it on myself.

“I think it is. Other than for the color, and the size of it. This will last you days, if not weeks, if it works.” Saeesar carefully edged around the ring to study the pattern. “You’re still singing. Is that the song you were saying this makes?”

“If it’s the one I’m playing in my head right now, yes. What do I do with it?” I knew though, in asking. I turned my hands and pressed the green ring to my chest. The scattered sensation under my skin turned electric, piercing through my lungs, buckling my upright resolve. All the lights in the cave disappeared.

“Marin! Marin! Wake up! Marin!” Saeesar’s voice brought me out of a summer afternoon with my siblings at the watering hole.

“Saeesar?” I blinked, pulling at my fingers until they came unclamped from the fists I had made of them. “I’m alive. What happened?”

“I don’t know. You used that charm, and then all your lights turned bright, and then you collapsed. How do you feel?” He helped me sit up.

“Exhausted, like waking up well before the cock crowed and trudging my way to school in bad weather. I need coffee.” I pressed the heel of my hands into my eyes, willing the weight in them banished.

“You are not in pain?” He curled his tail around me protectively. It was an interesting habit of his, and I couldn’t decide if it was his way of getting his massive length out of the way, or if it was protective against Pursha, or meant to reassure me. Maybe a little of each.

I drew in a deep breath of water and blew out, waiting on the skittering lines that would remind me of the charms Saeesar had put on me. It never came. “I think I did it?”

“Your charm worked?”

“Maybe?” I scrambled over Saeesar’s tail to look at the other charm.

“Is he really himself, Saeesar?” Pursha’s asked.

“I have no idea. I think so.”

“I’m breathing. I think I’m still me. Saeesar, what other charms do you know?” I demanded.

Chapel Orahamm (C) 2022-2023. All Rights Reserved.

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