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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Fantasy · #1070437
A legend that I thought of about Oracle and Selkies.
They say I have no soul. They say I do not think. It is true, I suppose, but there is always that sort of cavern where one stores one's most haunting memories. Methodically my mind wanders here and there, drifting like smoke over water, into and out of thought.

The truth is, I am no more knowledgeable than any other human. Abandoned by my own parents, I was delivered unto the severest temple, Maethor-Rhys. Truly, it was the closest to Hades, but throughout my life I neither feared or hated the underworld or what lay there. The fumes did not consume me, and it's king did not dare to touch me.

I was trained from a babe in the temple. When I turned ten years old, I was sacrificed to what most know as the Oracle, a never ending, ever-flowing line of thought and knowledge that passed through only the dedicated. Against my will, I was an Oracle host. I was given a ebony and golden dress, the dress of Hosts before my time, and told to drink a special elixir that paralyzed my body. The only one who could control me was the Oracle and six strong men who set me upon the dias I now occupy, the throne I reign from.

It is impossible to number the times I asked the Oracle to tell me the curse to undo what has been done. I was lost within my own body, my mind trapped in a possessed shell. For three days I sat in a feverish state, adapting to my body's needlessness for food or drink. I sat and smelt death as it seeped into the great cavern from below, puncturing my senses. My skin grew tough and radiant with the air of death and my hair like midnight. I could not open my eyes nor close them. With my black and golden dress blowing eerily, hair dancing wildly, I was a sight to behold. Once I was twenty, I would be sacrificed to the Death King, as I will have had served my purpose. A new host is sacrificed every ten years.

So it was here that I sat, screaming and babbling from morning, noon, and night. I was spared death and I continued to answer the questions of trembling men and women and occasionlly children. They all left after my answers were given but I always could feel the presense of a certain young man.

He sat at the mouth of the temple in the beginning, and then began to sit at the separate exit to my prison. Everyday, he came and played a low song on his pan flute, everyday he said the same thing:

"My lady, I promise to free you from this task. I will free you from your burden." The spirit inside me detested this boy, often sending seizures through my rigid body. That was the only time I could feel true and terrible pain.

One day, he began to converse with me.

"How did you get here? Why were you chosen? Can you hear my voice, Lady? Do you know how I can free you?" he would say.

The Oracle would always responded, "Do you not know, Foolish Child, that she will never be free? She will always be a slave. Stupid Boy! You are falling in love with a host for a divine parasite. This is her fate. Do not test it."

I was startled each time oracle in me said that. Could he really love me? I didn't even know my own face. Was I pretty?

I began to look forward to his visits. Each time I tried to resist the Oracle's attemped ridicules, trying to master my own mouth and ask him if he did in the least bit love me, or if he could free me. Everyday, I grew stronger, the will to love and be loved kindled a fire in my soul, and I had a reason to escape. I think that he could sense that, for his words became more urgent, more passionate and his music grew sweeter.

Then, one day, my chance came.

I felt morning come early that day, yet I could not feel the presence of the boy. Where could he be? Then I heard soft footsteps. My chance for freedom! He came so close, his breath swarming around me and I felt his gaze. Behind my eyelids, I felt my eyes searching for him.

He grasped my hand and my eyes flew open.

The Oracle hissed within me. "No! If you desert me now, all of Hades will swallow you and the boy Aeries. Don't be stupid! You are helping the world by being my channel!"

My anger subsided slowly. "There are some things that the world should never know," I told the spirit. "Sometimes, the greatest answer is 'wait.'"

Slowly, I stepped down from the dias. Like smoke from a doused fire, the Oracle left me.

I looked around the room. My pedestal was in the center, surrounded by five granite pillars. The exit leading into the temple was ahead to the right. Besides this, the room was empty.

Many footsteps came towards me. The priestess and her servants flew into the room. She stopped immediatly and her face grew white as flour. Slowly, she gathered her thoughts and wits and whispered something to a young temple boy, who hurried back out of the cavern.

"Go back, all of you! I will take care of this." Her cold eyes stared into mine and I knew that this could cause trouble. She gave a simpering smile and began to walk towards us. Aeries put a supportive arm around my shoulders. His green eyes spoke with assurance.

"Child, dear Aethlia; and sweet Aeries! What on earth could you be doing?"

I was suprised at hearing my name, for I had forgotten it. I shook myself and glared at her.

"You enslave me and then question my escape?" I said. "You are stupid, as are you followers. What did the Death King offer? Eternal life for a host for his oracle? Luxury for hundreds of lives?"

The priestess turned deathly white, her red lips formed a tight pink line and her fists were clenched. Undoubtedly, she had figured out that I knew from the Oracle what she had been secretly doing.

The slave had returned. He carried a silver sacrificial knife, a white cloth, and a blackened candle. The priestess snatched them. She knew every rite by memory. "She lies," she said to the temple servants. "Bind the boy!"

The strongest men rushed forward and separated us, tying up Aeries despite his brave struggle. Aeries tried to assure me but his words were in vain as they tied us both to equal wooden alters. Carefully, the priestess lit the candle and placed it between the two alters, slightly behind our heads. I struggled to see; she leaned down close to my ear.

"A new day will rise. You will not thwart me, nor my power. Imbecile! I can have the King of Death swallow you and your Aeries to burn in fire and eternal punishment." She raised the knife as to sacrifice us, and in a thunderous voice cried out, "Open your mouth, Land-That-Lies-Below, and swallow those who do not make right in your eyes!"

I began to cry, my tears mixing with sweat. I could only whisper, and so I offered a prayer to the heavens. "Oh great gods, I offer now this prayer: free us from these bonds and may true justice be done."

The priestess was raising the knife even higher, the spell was almost done. In her eyes, the glint of hatred gleamed strong and I knew that she would never let us go without a fight, such was her lust for blood. With a sickening crunch and boom, a moan of the earth, the candle and the ground around it crumbled. Out of smoke and ash, there came a figure so deadly that she was beautiful. She had charcoal roses in her hair, and her dress was the velvet blanket of midnight. Her bare feet were white, like the rest of her skin, and her long finger nails were matched with the blood-red of her lips. Her eyes were a shining black like an abyss that has no boundry.

The woman approached the alter and priestess, who looked at her with a cold smile. She bowed with friendship and respect for this celestial being. But her smile faded as the woman returned an icy stare; reaching into the folds of her black dress, she took out an iron knife and slit the ropes. We arose, Aeries coming to comfort me and then we payed tribute to our saviour, kowtowing at her feet.

"My lady, who are you?" I whispered with chaped lips.

"I am Dalia, the unknown sister of the Lord of Death. I have been sent to your aid, but be warned: never has my help come without curse.

"You drove this boy to your aid, drove him to give up his very life for you. You also had a job, be it against your will or not; for this, I deem that your thirst, driven by the air of the Underlands that you have breathed in for so long, shall never be quenched. You are cursed to the waters cool your body from the fires of the Underlands. This is my name for you and your kind: Selkie of the Seas, made of two skins - seal and human. You and your children may walk on the earth, but forever will you be bound to the water.

"Aires will share her fate and become her husband," she said to the room and turned to him. "But because your love drove her to desert her duty, you will desert your duty as husband many times; you will have a lust for the human woman, as will your sons. You have brought this curse on her, so your children born of humans will be cursed - half human, half selkie babe.

I swallowed hard and I could feel his fingers trembling as they rested on my shoulders. As if she noticed this, Dalia smiled softly. "But take heart! Your lives will be happy and you will truly love each other for as long as you shall live, and your children will be as many as fish in the sea. Life will be full.

"Now I must descend back to my home. Follow me, priestess, for your time has come. Fare thee well!"

The priestess raised her eye brows and shook her head as the sister of Death beckoned her to the cold and forsaken. "No," she said queitly with a small smile. "You must be mistaken my lady. I am the servant of your brother. I am still free."

The dark lady before them sighed and shook her head. "As with all of those in high positions, you refuse to take your place in the dark land. You think that because you help my brother once, many innocent deaths are not your fault. Your punishment for your deeds was decided long ago. But it is not your choice, O Priestess, but mine!"

Like an explosion, wings emerged from the back of Dalia and she swooped to her prey, carrying a shreiking priestess to the depths of the inferno. The hole closed with a low and resounding thud, sealing away the putrid lands of death.

We watched as the last tenrils of foul smoke faded into the air. Aeries suddenly broke my trance and helped me up, carrying me to safety outside the temple as its very walls began to collapse. As soon as we were out standing in shallow water, I felt the curse begin its affect.

I changed faster than Aeries. My skin began to disappear, swallowed in the folds of a seal's skin. "Aeries!" I called out desperatly. He looked at me in suprise as I shrank to the size of a seal. His eyes widened as I dove into the sea.

The shock of the water burned like warm water in winter, and my animal instincts took over. I swam down and then back up to Aeries, who had also dived in, drinking in small doses the water that was to be my home. He had taken the form of a seal now, too. The skin of a handsome black male had enfolded his flesh. I swam up and teased him in dives and dashes, communicating in the language of the sea.

We swam to the surface. Like soap, the skin slipped from my body. I gathered it and rolled it up in a tight ball, clothing myself in sea plants and bits of cloth washed up from the sea.

That night we danced by the light of the moon on the shores of a ruined temple. Dryads and nyiads, fairies and fauns joined us upon that beach and still do on nights of the full moon. I caught Aeries glance and we smiled, knowing that promise and hope lay before us.

Perhaps someday you will see our children swimming against the rough seas. Against a golden sunset, you may hear the singing of the ocean, of my people. Maybe you will meet one of us and swim with the seals of land and sea, the Selkies.
© Copyright 2006 Amara Linio (amara_linio at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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