literature

Shantel - Julep [mc124]

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*Hello?  ...Julep?*

The voice is distorted, as though it is bouncing around inside a tunnel, but it isn't coming from the fog.  It's inside his head and swelling in his chest, a trickle of light that makes something inside him ache and reminds him of bright blue sky.  He sits up and scans the area, but there isn't anything to see.  Breath held, Julep waits.

The voice seems to call across a great distance.  *Hellooo...*

*Who... who's there?* Julep demands, looking around again.  Nothing but white, damp air lazily flowing across the swamp.  He feels the familiar swell of annoyance.

*Oh, good!* the voice exclaims, now sounding more female.  *Julep?  Can you hear me?*

*Obviously.*

*Excellent!  This way, please.*

And then there's a pull, as though gravity is now tumbling him sideways instead of down to the earth.  Startled, Julep digs in his talons and balks.  The world seems to shift a bit, but then the invisible force releases him.  He sits down with a slight jolt.  *What...?*

*I'm sorry, but you'll need to come to where we're reflecting into your world.  Wherever the water is, I can't move from it.*

Julep stands then.  There's something overwhelmingly familiar about the voice, and the idea of his mother bobs to the surface of his mind.  He turns and moves as swiftly as he dares in the direction of that pull, mucking his way through the soft ground.  There isn't any water here, only mud, and that's not right.  After a few moments of blindly forging forward, he pauses.  There isn't anything here.  *All right.  Where are you?*

*This way,* she answers.  There's a pull again, but much lighter this time, barely a suggestion of losing his balance slightly to the right.  He turns immediately into it and trudges farther into the pale swamp.

The mud starts to get wetter, and he curses as his feet start to sink slightly as he walks.  Great.  So this is how it will end... Julep getting stuck in a mud pit and dying while chasing an inaudible ghost voice.  He's about to lose his temper when he spots it.  There's a small patch of gray in the mud up ahead.  Blinking, he resolves it into a puddle of water, reflecting the ever-present fog.  Stumbling a bit in his haste, he splatters his way to the edge, and then jumps back in shock as the face of another dragon peers back at him from the mirrored surface.  His chest feels tight, and he tries to blame his old wound as he leans back over to look into the wet pool.

The face there is a light blue one with dark eyes like his own.  He's seen himself in reflections before, and this dragon very obviously shares his structure, from her wide, blunt snout to the two graceful horns that flow back from her eyes.  She blinks and tilts her head a bit.  *Ah, there you are.  My, my, you have your father's spines, but you are the spitting image of your mother!*

*Let me see!  Let me see!* An excited voice, this one more masculine, yells, and suddenly a brilliant gold dragon with silver spines pops into view, shoving his face in next to the blue female's and flaring enormous feathered wings behind her head.  *That's my son!*

And he is.  Julep never saw his parents, not really, but such a jolt of recognition goes through him at the sight of the gold dragon that he can't doubt him for an instant.  It is almost too much when the blue dragon slides aside and a pure white face with pitch black eyes replaces hers.

*Mother...* Julep breaths, feeling himself rooted to the spot.  The world shrinks down to a tiny puddle in the mud, and his breaths are shaky as he tries to make sense of it.

*Julep...*

Silence stretches for a moment as his parents drink in the first sight of their child since his egg left their care.  As for Julep, the shock doesn't wear off.  He feels as though he should be angry or yell or something.  But he only stares and stares, afraid that any movement or sound will shatter the image like a glass mirror.

*Sofi... Lunibré... I'm sorry, but it won't stay open forever.*  The voice of the blue comes softly, and his parents both blink and look off to the side.

No!  Julep wishes for the moment to stay just as it is.  But then the gold dragon, his father, shakes his head slightly to break the spell.

*Right!  Julep, your mother and I love you very much.  I'm sorry we couldn't get you here.  Maybe one day... but it isn't safe.  We couldn't risk... well, you know.  BUT.  But... this is your Shantel!  Possibly could have found a better location than a pool of water...*  His father trials off with an annoyed frown.

*Now, now, at least we got to see him,* his mother chides.  The desperate longing in her gaze makes Julep feel an echoing reply in his chest.  *Now, Julep, you hang in there.  I know things where you are... they aren't good.  But don't lose hope!  And keep those people around you.  They're good for you, and you're going to be good for them.  I just know it.*

His parents both pause again, looking at him in a mournful way, unwilling to move from his sight.

*The Kailan...* the blue whispers, and Julep suddenly hates her.  How dare she interrupt this moment!  But his parents bob their heads in acquiescence and slide back, out of view.  Despair floods into him, but then a different face appears in the pool, and he blinks at the wise presence before him.

*Julep.*  The old red dragon examines him, and Julep has the feeling he's being thoroughly assessed.  He straightens up a bit and takes in a quick breath to puff his chest, swallowing nervously.

*Julep, I am Kailan of the Machesri clan, your clan,* the dragon continues.  *You do not have an easy task before you, and I cannot offer you a simple fix for your world.  I can, however, offer you a door to possibilities.  It will not be easy without elders to guide you, but I know you have friends there who use magic of a different type.  All magic, at its very core, is similar in that it takes both the mind and the spirit to make it take shape.  Seek their guidance as you begin on your own path and then let your own abilities guide you.*

*As your father mentioned, this is your Shantel.  Julep, I grant you the Stalking Cloud.  This object gives you the breath weapon of disorienting fog. Now, before you get angry--*

The outburst of rage spinning up in Julep's mind is held back, but he glares into the water anyway.  Fog?!  Yes, that is just what he needs!

The Kailan gives him a stern look, reading his thoughts from beyond the surface.  *Before you get angry,* he goes on, *I did not choose this object for its beginning breath weapon, but for the other powers it offers.

*At first, it will give you control over the movement of the fog around you, but this object is a gateway to controlling the much more than that.  Its powers are rooted in both water and climate.  It can allow you to affect the weather itself.  It will be easier to master cooling and freezing, but in time, you should be able to reverse the effects as well.  It is my hope that you will find a way to develop this magic into something that can start to heal your world.

*There may be other skills that you can learn once you've begun to explore your magic.  Only time and effort will tell.  Your world, as you well know, is not ruined, Julep.  Life has found a way, and it will continue to do so with your help, and the help of others who inhabit it.*

The Kailan glances off to one side for a long moment when he is finished, his look questioning. Then, he nods and takes a deep breath.  *All of you, concentrate.*

He closes his eyes, and Julep has the idea that all the other dragons with him are doing the same.  Suddenly, the surface of the puddle bursts into ripples so violent that the image of the Kailan is completely obscured.  The water explodes upwards, and from the center, a curl of dark leather pops up into the air.  Purple light glints from one side, and Julep instinctively snatches it with a taloned foot as it comes back down to the ground.  As water droplets fall around him, he examines the stiff leather arm brace.  The front plate is reinforced, hard as bone, and inset into the surface is a bubble of thick crystal that seems to contain a glowing, purple liquid.  As Julep watches, the liquid swirls and dissolves into smoke before condensing and settling back down again.  It seems to beckon him.

Remembering the Kailan, he glances up at the pool.  His parents are watching him from the surface now, but they look murky and wavy.

*Mother?  Father?* He leans closer, but the image does not get any clearer.

*Good luck, Julep!* his father says.

*We love you!* his mother's voice echoes.

The images are melting into a swirl of colors in the pool now.  Julep stops breathing, transfixed by the fading connection.

Faintly, as the colors drain away, his father's voice promises, *We will see you someday...*

And then, the pool is transparent once more, brown like the surrounding mud.  The white light of the fog glints on its surface, and Julep is left alone.  It seems ridiculous, but he swears the Stalking Cloud is watching him expectantly.
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ixris's avatar
I don't think a shantel has ever made me cry before.  Holy cats, Indy, that was wonderful.  

I don't feel like this is nearly enough, but ... Thank you.  :hug: