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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

Run Down Like Waters

Time: 08/11/98 22:58:45
Character(s): Otter
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Run Down Like Waters (Restricted Plotline)
Title of Post: Dark And Bitter Tide

Comments:

Otter didn't understand the draw topside had on her any better than her family did. She had an abiding hatred of extraneous noise and wasted movement, and the appeal of Ataniel's herky-jerky motions and the shrill voices constantly splitting its thin air was one that completely bypassed her mind on its way to her heart. Otter supposed there was something in the sheer inevitability of gravity she liked somehow. To think on it more than that would have been a waste of energy. Salmon swim upstream, the freshwater saying went. There was no sense wondering why.

Small silver darters swarmed through Otter's path as she pulled past the underwater pinks and purples of the coral reef with long and efficient strokes. One of the problems with this place was that fish were just plain stupid, of course. Here she was, a large, dangerous predator, and the darters weren't even capable of altering their course enough not to bump into her. The only other mammals with a presence in the East Sea were dolphins, and they stuck to the open oceans. The brightest reef inhabitants, next to Otter's people, were octopi, and their silent little shanty towns and eerie asocial intelligence was too much like time spent alone to interest Otter long. She'd been home nearly a week now, and, as usual, she was bored. Time to return, then, to riding the waves on hollow wooden shells, to be a stranger again among human sailors who, like the whales of the Great North, sang constantly for no real reason at all. She didn't understand them, and so she longed for them. Otter was usually a stranger, and when it came time to go she didn't spend her time arguing. She did not, generally, say goodbye.

Otter's legs undulated in the tight up-and-down waves that propelled her horizontally along the reef ledge and away from her ancestral cove. We should have named you Shark, her father would complain. You don't know your own motives, and so even when you're still you are never still. Otter's father loved words, especially ones he spoke himself. Otter knew that the reason sharks were never still was that their primitive gills relied on motion to push air through their system, and didn't listen to her father much.

Today, though, as Otter banked suddenly down and to her right after a change of light her eye had suddenly caught, it did occur to her, in an almost revelatory flash, that she did not know why she was doing it.

For possibly the first time in the clean, focused lines of her life, Otter was about to find herself wondering.

A shadow slid through the other shadows, across Otter's throat, and the water went mottled and then dark.

Mithril Dagger Divider

Time: 08/13/98 02:51:41
Character(s): Otter
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Run Down Like Waters
Title of Post: The Aquatic Ape

Comments:

The first thing Otter noticed was the pressure on her ears.

Her humanoid body wasn't actually that well-adapted to life underwater. Otter had eardrums. Her nostrils looped up through her nose so that she could breathe through them topside but not smell the water. Her buoyancy was low, her shape not very hydrodynamic. Truth to tell, it wasn't that efficient on land, either; bipedalism was slow and clumsy, her air-based smell sensors were nothing to sound home about, and having no fur cover was a pain in the ass. Otter would have shaped herself like a dog topside and a dolphin or even her namesake otter below, but it wasn't a choice she had, and she supposed her own body was a reasonable compromise between the two.

Her people, though, had a connection with the sea beyond simply living there, a spiritual connection, a supernatural connection. And so even though they weren't deep sea dwellers, it was strange for the depth to be bothering Otter's ears.

The second thing she noticed was that she seemed to be trapped in a bubble.

Otter pushed against the shimmering skin and it pushed back, like the surface of a pond against a water-skimmer's legs. On the other side was a profound darkness, which should not have been either, for Otter had supernatural vision in the water. And it was water, beyond the bubble she was trapped in; she could see, dimly, three-dimensional pockets of bioluminescence, weaving through the sunless depths, moving with the slow and sensuous turnings that only water supported.

Where Otter floated was salt. Beyond that she had no way of telling.

The naiad pirate pushed her shoulder blades back into the skin of the bubble and planted her boots hard against the opposite side. The long muscles of her legs strained as she pushed, but the bubble did not snap. Otter gasped water through her system and pushed harder. Still nothing. Otter was annoyed: this wasn't much of a leverage point, but even overextended as she was she should be able to leg-press at least one or two hundred pounds. That meant the skin of the bubble was responding to the amount of pressure exerted on it.

Otter put her lips gently to the surface of the bubble and sucked.

That was when the creature glided by.

Otter found screaming an inexcusable waste of energy in a startle situation, but she did pull back hard from the bubble wall.

It was as long as she was, flat, broad, and armor-plated, with toothed pincers the length of Otter's arm jutting forward from either side of the yawing mouth on its moon-white underbelly, not three feet from Otter's face.

It had eight fluttering, crablike legs, and an articulated spiked tail. As it twisted past her bubble, Otter had a glimpse of one curving, window-like eye; then it was gone into the darkness again.

She had never seen anything like it.

"Where in Doris' name am I?" she whispered, aloud.

Mithril Dagger Divider

Time: 08/13/98 17:29:39
Character(s): Otter, the Fallen
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Run Down Like Waters
Title of Post: Down Derry Derry Down

Comments:

They hovered together in the silent depths, shadows on the blackness, and watched the spirit strain against the walls of its cage. You should not have brought it here, admonished one.

What else could I do? It was too close. It would either have been killed or seen us and brought its friends.

Then you should have taken it and left it elsewhere.

It would have come back.

We can't keep it here indefinitely.

I don't see why not.

It has a soul. What if it dies? Do you know how to care for it? Do you know what it eats?

The second was silent.

We must put it back.

It is too late to put it back.

The first was silent.

It won't be long now. It has a soul. It can tell us what it needs to live. And even if it dies... we are deeper now. Perhaps we will survive.

We are not yet deep enough, rippled the first.

Have patience. We will get there.

The two of them hovered, together, and watched the spirit in the bubble.

Mithril Dagger Divider

Time: 08/14/98 05:25:04
Character(s): Otter, Callie
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Run Down Like Waters
Title of Post: Than I Do For The Bottom Of The Sea

Comments:

There was a shimmer in the darkness beyond Otter's bubble, and then a winglike fluke, pale yellow with brown mottling, curved gracefully into her field of vision, and then the rest of the creature it was attached to, circling the bubble. This one was no more than three feet long, its underbelly waving in overlapped flounces of skin like a cuttlefish's tessera. Stiff feeding arms protruded from the front of its strange armored head. It circled the bubble again, training its strange curved eyes on her. Otter frowned at it. I am the ocean; you are the ocean. I don't know where I am, or what you are, but I do know how to find out. "Where is this place?" she said, slowly and with resonance, letting her will disperse through the water.

-The Sinthis Trench,- lisped a soft voice iin her mind.

Otter wasn't sure which was stranger: that the cuttlefish-creature was psionic, or that she had never heard of the Sinthis Trench. "Why am I imprisoned here?"

-The Fallen Ones put you here for safekeepiing.-

"Why?"

-I can't tell you.- Its tessera fluttered nervously. -They would be angry.-

"They can be angry with me. Tell me."

-No.-

Otter blinked rather stupidly at the creature. She could feel its anxiety, faintly--whether it was the creature's nervousness that was slight, or her own ability to sense it, Otter didn't know--but it did not yield. What is this thing that it can disobey me? "What," she said, slowly, "can you tell me?"

-You will be released when the Fallen Ones have finished their work. Then you can go home. No one will hurt you. I am here to ask you: what do you eat?-

"What do I--eat?" Otter felt a little disoriented.

-I hope it will not be me,- confessed the ccreature, rippling its flukes.

"I don't even know what you are," said Otter. "I eat fish. Small fish. Or clams. Who are you? What do you want with me?"

-My name is Callie. I'm just supposed to ttake care of you until the Fallen Ones are ready to leave.-

"Leave," she said, "leave where?"

-I can't tell you that. Please. I must goo now.-

Callie was gone in a pale flip of color.

Otter put both her palms on the wall of the bubble almost as if to steady herself, a strangely topside gesture.

Mithril Dagger Divider

Time: 08/20/98 19:32:16
Character(s): Otter
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Run Down Like Waters
Title of Post: A Lonely Impulse Of Delight

Comments:

Otter wasn't precisely sure how many days had passed.

No sunlight reached this deep. Day and night were meaningless on the ocean floor, the cycles of the moons and their tides as inconsequential as surface storms. Occasionally a strange creature, or two, or a whole school of them, would pass through her limited field of vision; in the farther distance, bioluminescent outlines would occasionally pass. Callie brought her meals periodically. And time, in the amorphous, immeasurable way of the depths, went by.

Otter was no closer to understanding anything she hadn't at her moment of arrival, either. Where she was; who or what the Fallen Ones were, or what they wanted with her; even the nature of her prison. Worse, she had somehow stopped understanding things she had understood before she had come here. Otter felt terribly alien here. The soft cold ocean that had once seemed like an extension of her own skin now felt somehow mysterious, and Otter didn't like it. She didn't like questions; she liked answers. And so she was wondering, and not for the first time, why she had banked towards an inconsequential shimmer of light among the reefs. Not hunger, not greed, not territorial defense. It had been something almost like desire. She had been remembering the pointless, yearning shanties of the human sailors, and she had found herself moving.

Otter was coming to realize that she did not understand herself as well as she had once thought, and she hated herself for it.

Mithril Dagger Divider

Time: 08/22/98 07:07:59
Character(s): Callie
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Run Down Like Waters
Title of Post: Heave Away, Haul Away

Comments:

-Are you coming, Callie?-

-Callie wants to go through with the Fallenn Ones,- teased Misa.

Callie flipped her tail at him sharply, sending little eddies fluttering through his tessera. -I do not. Aren't you curious at all?-

-Not curious enough to be anywhere near thee bottom of the Sinthis when they open the seal. The whole thing's going to collapse, you know.-

-And then the entire Deepsea is going to drrain into the Labyrinth, and we'll all dry up and blow away-, scoffed Foss, tossing her dark head.

-Fine, don't believe me.- The water rockedd with the distant echo of a pressure wave, as if on cue. -We'll see who's right when the dust settles. Are you coming, Callie, or do you want to do a sand dollar impersonation?-

Callie's feeding arms clattered then, suddenly. -The spirit! They forgot the spirit!-

-It's all right, Callie,- said Foss, impatiiently. -The forcewater will protect her even if the whole continental shelf falls on her head. Come on.-

-But she'll be trapped here! She'll starvee to death!-

-By that time the Fallen Ones will be safe in the Labyrinth,- Misa pointed out. -There won't be anyone left to be damaged by the separation of her soul.-

-They said they would send her home!- Calllie rippled in agitation. -I promised she wouldn't be hurt...-

-Now you're just making excuses, Callie.-
Maybe I am, thought Callie, as she banked away from her friends through the unnatural shuddering slosh of the ocean depths.

Mithril Dagger Divider

Time: 08/26/98 00:27:36
Character(s): Otter and Callie
Author: Laura Redish
Storyline: Run Down Like Waters
Title of Post: And She's Left Them All Behind

Comments:

Otter pressed her palms to the surface of her bubble and strained to make anything out. She could feel the sea sloshing around her. It reminded her strangely, inversely, of the deck of a ship in a storm. A large rock struck the dome of her bubble then, making her jerk back into the bizarre elastic wall, but it bounced harmlessly off.

Then another.

Is this trench collapsing?

It would have been impossible, of course. The draw of water it would have taken to create enough of a vaccuum to collapse the walls of the trench inward would have had to be millions of tons of pressure. More than Otter could ever imagine. More than anyone could possibly generate by any means short of divine.

Callie flitted into Otter's range of view then, her gills pumping manically, darting barely out of the way of a sinking rock several times her size. The displacement waves sent her ricocheting off the wall of Otter's bubble. "Callie," said Otter, pressing forward. "What is going on here?"

-The seal has been opened!- The anomalocarris girl plunged her bony feeding arms through the surface of the bubble, and Otter sucked water in sharply through her teeth. Callie knew how to inject matter through the wall, Otter knew, but not how to draw anything out. She was trapped by the bubble now as surely as Otter was, and not on the side that would protect her from the crush of debris. -We will have to pass through. It is our only chance!-

Otter jerked her head in a dizzy arc, but took in nothing but dark water and the occasional darker plummeting shape. "What?" she said. "Pass through where? What are you talking about?"

-No time!- Callie strained her head, visibble threads of light twining in eddies away from her tail, and the bubble rocked, then budged.

"I--" said Otter, and then the bubble, detached from the ocean floor, was swept off in the impossible current.

'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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