“Yes, yes, you’ve said that before. I still don’t understand,” I grumble to myself as I sit in the library listening to the water. Kaede sits next to me on the double couch, tinkering with his phone and leaning against me casually. He ignores my rambling, knowing I’m speaking to the water only I can hear.
After a while though, he does look up at me, bright eyes earnest to solve a puzzle. “What don’t you understand?” he asks.
“Everything! It speaks in riddles. It says ‘the tears of the ocean are deep once found, now lay in the heart of a dead dry mound. Long have we been parted, longer still we may until the walls are shattered and free to flow again.’ Like, what the hell does that mean?” I grouch, frowning deeper. I don’t normally swear, but now I’m annoyed.
“Hmm, sounds intriguing. It’s quite poetic though. That water of yours really knows how to use deep words,” he laughs softly at the obvious pun he made.
“You could say that, but it’s annoying when you want a straight answer,” Of course, I could maybe ask someone if they knew. I wanted to tell Kat and Andrei earlier, but they seem to be off somewhere on their own. I probably know what they’re up to too. After being apart for so long, I can only imagine they’re doing some ‘catching up’.
Just when I begin to resign myself to waiting, Ceph walks in, trailed closely by Eli. He looks tall and mysterious in his long leather trench coat laden with many pockets, tie-up boots, and round spectacles. On his waist, he carries a holster, complete with a pistol. He has his one hand dug deep in the pocket of his coat and I wonder what it is he’s got in there. His features are small and stiff, giving him a strict looking appearance, which is sort of intimidating… yet, appealing.
In contrast, Elias is laid-back, his broad shoulders and square jaw are warm and inviting. He wears fitted pants and a loose shirt, showing off his body. His bright orange hair has a striking resemblance to Kaitlyn’s and it pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. It looks soft and shiny, like a model from an herbal essences commercial. His dark eyes, very unlike Kat’s, light up when he sees us.
“Hey! Ceph, look, it’s Sis’s friends!” Eli nudges Ceph and points to us. I raise my brow at his choice of the word Sis. Ceph eyes Eli wearily.
“Caroline, was it? And…” Ceph trails off, trying to remember Kaede’s name.
Kaede sighs and gives him a hint. “Starts with a K, ends with a day,” he chuckles.
“Kaydey?” Ceph guesses.
“Close, Kaede. No worries man. It’s Japanese.”
“I’ve been there. I should have guessed. I’m sorry about that,” Ceph is so polite… wow.
“What brings you to the library?” I ask as they take a seat across the table from us. Ceph lifts his boots up to the table like it’s some kind of tavern bench. I unconsciously raise an eyebrow at the action.
“I’m wandering around this magnificent building Markus constructed. You know, I think it’s bigger than Camelot. Andrei and Kaitlyn didn’t do it justice when they talked about it. I’m glad I made the effort to come,” he smiles as he gazes at the shelves of books. “As for why I’m here now, though, I came to ask about your artifact. Do you have anything yet?” he asks, pulling his hand out of his pocket and revealing a small brass pocket watch. He starts to twirl it by the chain.
“Yes, actually, I was just telling Kaede how I’m annoyed that the water speaks to me in riddles,” I begin, eyes stuck on the watch as it spins.
“Well, it’s a lot better than ticking. I’m like a walking grandfather clock,” he coughs a laugh. Well, when it’s put that way, I guess I’m lucky it uses words. Even Kaitlyn said hers uses feelings rather than words. I wonder what the others hear now.
“You’re right. I shouldn’t complain.” I repeat the riddle I told Kaede, while he thumbs his chin thoughtfully.
“Have you tried tracing it?” he asks after a while.
“Tracing it? Like finding it’s water signature? I’m much too far away for that. I can only locate things within a fifty-mile radius,” I tell him.
“That’s still impressive, but tracing is different. Have you tried melding your consciousness with the water yet? It is an advanced spell, perhaps beyond your skills at this time.”
I’m sure he doesn’t mean to offend me but it is kind of irksome to be told something is beyond your ability. “Look,” I start, sounding a little angrier than I intend to. “I just learned I had magic maybe four months. So the fact that I am able to do anything at all should be awe-inspiring enough.”
“Sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” Ceph apologizes. For such an intimidating guy, he sure seems awkward when he speaks.
Eli snickers. “Don’t take it personally. Ceph isn’t very good with people,” Ceph eyes him before continuing the explanation.
“So, how does this tracing work?” I prompt.
“Tracing is a spell any Elementalist can use for their respective element. It involves melding your consciousness with the element you control and following its thoughts. You know how you hear a voice in your head?” I nod, I know that very well. “That voice is like the consciousness of your element. It’s the mind, and if you meld with it, you can sometimes catch glimpses of its memories, if you will.
“For some elements, it is easier, while for others, it is harder. I once knew of a wind mage who said the wind spoke in full conversation with her, while fire can be much harder to understand as it usually communicates with emotional intensities,” he stops looking to Eli for confirmation. He nods in agreement.
What he says makes sense. I guess it sounds similar to the signature reading I learned. If I could follow the waters consciousness, I might catch a glimpse of an image of what the water is referring to in the riddle.
“Ok, I’d like to try this tracing spell. Can you guide me through it?” I ask them.
Ceph turns to Elias and they share a silent exchange before turning back to Kaede and I. “Sure. We’ll need to be at the source though. Shall we visit the ocean?” Eli asks.
The wind blows gently across the exposed layers of soil of the cliff. After climbing down to the bottom of the cliff, I feel like such a small ant compared to the ancient rock face that towers above me. Kaede is last to stumble onto the rocky beach.
Being so close to the vast ocean also makes me feel significantly smaller, but it’s a different kind of small. The voice of the ocean roars in my head and makes me want to cover my ears to block it out, but I can’t because it’s in my head.
I look to Ceph and Eli, standing by the edge of the water. Ceph stares out at the waves seemingly lost in thought. Eli hovers back a few steps, well away from the water, watching Ceph. I’m curious to ask, but I feel like it’s intruding on their privacy so I bite my tongue.
After a while, I step up to them, ready to begin. “So, how do we start?” I ask.
There’s silence, before Eli sighs and shakes his head. “Well, first, can you take elemental form?”
I nod. “Yes, I’m able to become full water. Should I change now?” I ask. Kaede sits on a rock behind us, watching, taking notes, it seems.
“Yes,” Eli smiles. I don’t know why, but every time he smiles I feel a shiver. I immediately try to hide my blush by shifting into water form.
I’m fairly quick at it after all the practice I’ve had with Naum. My senses suddenly shift as I become a body of water standing on the beach. I maintain a humanesque shape with some effort. I can’t speak in this form, I don’t even know if there’s a way to. So I wait for further instruction.
“If you can hear us, splash Ceph,” Eli calls out from the shore.
I hear Kaede snicker behind me but I can’t ask why, so I do it. I coalesce an orb of water from my hand and shoot it towards Ceph. The water hits him in the back of the head and he stumbles forward towards the water, hair dripping down the back of his coat. He stands there, reaching a hand to the back of his head and feeling the wetness.
He turns around, a bewildered look on his face as he looks at Eli than me. If I had my face in this form, I’m sure I’d look guilty as heck.
“What was that for?” Ceph asks, shaking his wet hand at his side.
Eli howls with laughter. “That’s what happens when you zone out!” He teases.
Ceph frowns. He really did seem lost in thought though, I have to admit. “You could have interrupted me. Now I’m all wet,” he pouts as if he was a kid. I slide forward on the rocks and reach a watery arm towards him. I place it on his hand and I absorb the water dripping from his arm and from his hair. When I withdraw my hand, he’s dry again.
He looks at me, or rather, through me, and smiles. “Thank you. That’s an interesting ability, as a water user. You should be able to speak in your full elemental form. Just as you can hear and see, speaking is the same. Don’t let the water limit you. I’ve heard it described to me like this; if you can retain the muscle memory of speaking like you do hearing and seeing then you should be able to manipulate the water to make sound for you. Why don’t you give it a try?” he suggests.
I think on that a while. I never thought of it like that before. It feels sort of like second nature to see and hear, but speaking, do I even have the vocal cords to do that? The longer I think about it, I start to formulate an idea.
Like the water, crashing on the shore, I could maybe move the molecules of water fast enough to create a friction, making sound. I wonder what it would sound like, forming words. Maybe I’m thinking of this the wrong way.
“Caroline, when you shift from water form to human form, what do you do?” Kaede asks.
I think I see what he’s getting at. When I change, I focus on each part forming, like the anatomy of the human body. What if I just made my vocal cords so I could speak? Decide to try.
“Is it working?” I ask, it sounds bubbly to me, but maybe that’s a side effect of being in my water form. Ceph smiles. I guess it is.
“Very good. You should be able to function fully as a human in water form, but using this form to take advantage of the abilities of your element isn’t a bad thing either,” Ceph compliments.
“Now, the ocean contains a vast amount of memory. It’s hard to traverse without a guide. You should have more command than other water mages because you are a Guardian. I’m not exactly sure how it will hold these memories, but try to direct the water to show you what you’re looking for.”
I’m daunted by the instruction. The ocean roars with sound, not of waves but of voices. Would these be the memories? Water is cryptic, even the voice in my head. I try to ask it.
I’m looking for the tears of the ocean. Can you show me? I ask. The Ocean ripples with images with each word I use. Looking; lookout, birds, boats, animals. Tears; blood, bottles, boats sinking, animals dying. I’m bombarded with the images. It makes me dizzy.
Show me, where. Where are your tears? I ask.
Tears? Sadness? Lonely… Alone.
Yes, where? I press, finally isolating a voice amongst the waves.
Where? Wide, the land is old and wide.
Where are your tears? I ask again. Show me anything.
Anything? It hums. I feel a heat, I see the sun. I see a bright white light reflecting on the shore.
I pull away, confused. “I don’t understand these images. They make no sense. Is there something else I can try?” I ask them.
“What do you see?” Eli asks.
“Sun, light. I felt heat. But it seems so vague,” I reply.
“You need to be more specific with your questions. Think of the poem it told you,” Eli suggests.
“Perhaps being in contact with the water will make things more clear for you,” Ceph waves a hand at the water. That makes a great deal of sense. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Kaede, it’s the closer you are to the router, the better the Wifi signal.
I glide across the rocks till I’m standing in the water. I touch my hand to the waves, caressing them, feeling them move beneath me, through me. I am one with the water and the water is one with me.
At last! We are one! It roars. Suddenly the water pulls at my watery being and I’m dragged under and away. I feel the ebb and flow of the ocean waves, the currents and the creatures that swarm within it. I feel the depths and the shallow pools of the tides. I panic, I don’t know where I am. I try to remember what it was I came to do before the ocean swallowed me whole.
I remember the beach, the guys and… the poem. The poem was so confusing, but I guess I’ll give it a try. I recite the poem in my mind, urging the voice to show me more. It takes some time as I sift through the voices, listening carefully. Tracing is like when you run your finger along a line, you follow it. You copy it.
Suddenly it makes sense. As I recite the poem, the water drags me down to the depths. It’s eerily dark and cold and wide. I sense ancient beasts swimming around, hunting. I feel the rumble of the Earth as I pass the vents of abysmal volcanoes. Then, we float upwards and along the ocean floor. We drift through the currents until we arrive as the warm shallow waters of a beach. We slide up the shore and up a river, against the current. I don’t know how this is possible, it defies all physical laws, but we do.
Soon we’re at the top of a mountain where the rainwater collects in a pool before it slides down the cliff face and back to the sea, from where I came.
Old land, wide land, dry land. The water says. Dry? I imagine it’s hard for the water to know what the land is like. I push further.
Dry land? Dry like a desert? The waters memories flash with images, a wide land full of sand.
Hmm, dry. Rarely fall here. Rivers only pass through.
So a desert. A land that’s old with a desert. I think of places like a Sahara or the Gobi desert, or even Australia. I mean, all the lands are old. When all of them were once connected as Pangea.
Suddenly thinking of how the water got to the top of a mountain, as it can’t come here as I did. This reminds me of rain and if it rains, it might hold a memory of the land.
Suddenly, a very clear image comes to me of a long strip of land that borders the coast of an ocean, dunes of rolling sand spread as far as the eye can see. I see a blue-green ribbon that shimmers in the sun and snakes it’s way down from a mountain and out towards the ocean. The image pauses at the mouth of the river as it feeds into the ocean.
The image fades and I find myself quickly dragged through the currents once more until I stand back at the beach on the island, surrounded by Ceph, Eli, and Kaede. I shift back into my human form, hands on my knees, still in the water. I look up at Ceph and Eli, who stand there, waiting eagerly for my answer.
“There’s a desert that borders the ocean,” I tell him. “A river passes through it, and where it feeds into the ocean, that’s where the tears are,” I tell him.
Kaede steps up to Eli, pointing at his phone. I stand up, leaning closer to see what he’s showing them, but I can’t see because of the screen protector he has on it.
Kaede says, “What do you think? Could it be there?”
Eli nods, looking to Ceph. “There aren’t many deserts that border the ocean, as far as I remember.”
“You’re right. That narrows it down. This place, what’s it called?” Ceph asks Kaede.
“Africa. The continent of Africa,” he replies.
“And this part here,” he points at the screen. Kaede taps the screen, zooming in.
“Namib, I think,” he replies.
“Then I’d say it’s safe to say the artifact is somewhere here. Until you get more practice tracing, you could maybe go here and then use your other spell for following water signatures. Try to hone in on the individual voices of the water bodies. It might be difficult, but this is a very useful skill,” he advises.
I nod. “great, so we have a rough location. I should tell the others and propose the idea of going there together.”
“That might be wise,” Ceph muses.
By Kayla West