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The Underwater Abyss

Chapter Three

Xena

The water moved like ribbons under my fingertips and it was pleasantly warm. I could see the sun's light through the water, but it was broken and intangible, but I don't dare reach up to break the surface. If I go back now I will be as good as dead.

But not for the first time I realized the sacrifices I have made.

I could see clearly in the water as if I was still on land which I found to be a relief; this would make getting used to living underwater easier....

How will I live underwater? I suddenly asked myself. I can't eat normally and I have no means of shelter... But I know my mother would be out here, somewhere, so I had to find her no matter what I wanted to do otherwise.

”The water is apart of you. The water is your very being so you should embrace it, not repel it away from you,” my mother would always say. She was the one who taught me how to breathe underwater and how to control its movements. I owed this to her. I had to find her to make sure she had not perished. If she did, I would never forgive myself.

The fish in the sea were a variety of colors on the color spectrum, as were the corals. The seaweed flowed with the movement of the clear water and the fish swam away, frightened, as I approached them. I once saw a sea turtle swim by gracefully, and it looked at me as if acknowledging my presence. Sea turtles had always fascinated me. Perhaps because of their long life-span, or because of their demeanor. I found them to be kindred spirits who brought no havoc to life willingly.

I did not know if the creatures recognized me as a being of the water, but if they did the creatures reacted the same way as if any other mortal dared to enter their domain. All of the creatures, I noticed, except the sharks. They appeared to regard me with curiosity, rather than as a future meal. One in particular, smaller than the other, seemed more curious and swam up to me cautiously. This strange affair caused me to remember the legends my mother would tell me as we looked at the starry night sky.

The low tide let my mother and I roam to the sandy beach. She had braided my hair with seashells and seaweed so I could be “more in tune with the ocean”. I thought the whole idea was pointless, but I had no desire to hurt my mother. My mother demonstrated her reasoning by taking a seashell and placing it in the palm of her hand. After a few moments it began to liquefy while I watched, amazed at the process.

”Whatever is found in the sea we can return to the sea. If we wear the seashells and seaweed our powers can become stronger. This works the same for nymphs of the land and air. Observe.”

She stepped into the water and crouched down, cupping her hands over an area of water. She slowly drew her hands apart and I watched, memorized, as a dry circle appeared in the water as if the water was pushed away from that area. The circle grew bigger until my mother was standing on a patch of dry, grainy sand. It was as if no water had touched that area.

Then I noticed the seashells and seaweed in her hair had disappeared, leaving her hair soaking.

”What? How--”

My mother smiled in response to my behavior. “We can use the seashells and seaweed to expand our skills, but as we use them they go back into water until there is nothing left, so we must start the process over. We are nymphs, Xena, so our powers are already limited, but we can use our resources to become even more powerful than our lord Poseidon himself.

”Yet, if we did such a thing we should surely be destroyed where we stand so we choose not to seize too much power. The sea is your element, Xena. Use it to your advantage when you are in dire need of it.”

I nodded in understanding and tried to replicate her actions with the water, but I could not even create a patch of dry sand. She laughed. “Oh, child, you cannot move the water until you practice the movements and you have yet to start them. If you would like, I may teach you how to pull the water to your will.”

”Oh, please! I want to become more powerful like you!” I looked expectantly at my mother but she simply shook her head.

”Not now, child. Rest for the night and then we will practice. For now, I think a story shall help you grasp the idea of our domain.” She stepped out of the sea and sat down on the sandy beach with her legs folded underneath her. I ran to her side and sat next to her while she gently began to unravel my braid.

”This story is something my elder sister would recite to me daily as I grew. She had always admired the legends of the Nereids but I found them just simple stories until now.”

”But I thought you were a Nereid, mother!”

”No, I am not, sadly. But all nymphs are related to them in some way or another. Now quiet so I may tell you of the story.

”Legend has it that the Nereids had special mounts which they rode through the oceans. These mounts were, of course, the sharks who served their masters until death. Although there are few grains of truth in this legend I like to think that the sharks later became the mounts for all sea nymphs and each have a specific rider whom only they obey.”

”So you have a mount out there, somewhere, mother?” I asked and she nodded.

”Yes, and you do as well since you were born to a sea nymph. Now, get some rest so we may practice in the morning.”

I recalled the memory fondly; after all these years that was still the legend I enjoyed most from my mother, but never once had I imaged it was the truth.

Now, as I faced the reef shark with the strange curiosity, I wondered if this was to be my mount to ride through the seas. I wondered if my mother had found her mount yet, or if she was still searching.

Are we to be friends? I thought in my mind, and as if in reply the creature swam closer to me and I allowed myself a smile and my hand grazed the dorsal fin of the creature. Now at least I had a companion on my journey to find my mother.

I hope you are up for a long journey ahead of you, my friend. I though as I began to swim East to where, I was almost certain, my mother would be waiting.

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