Seeking Shards III
You don’t blame Moirine for the fact that there isn’t a lot to work worth when it comes to these choices – she’s explained why it is the way it is, so it’s basically a game of chance at this rate until you two find the Shard you’re trying to find. That said, you went left the previous time you made your choice, which is primarily why you decide you want…
“Let’s go right,” you say.
“To the cave it is, then,” Moirine says. She flashes a grin. “Come on.”
You both begin to trek toward the cave located to the right, nestled in one hill.
“You’re really enjoying being human, aren’t you?” you ask.
“Oh, absolutely,” Moirine says. “I love to be a selkie, pup, don’t get me wrong, but there is something immensely satisfying about having a genuine reason to turn into a human.”
You eye her curiously. “You could turn into a human at any point, though, right?”
“True,” Moirine says. “True, I could. But I often prefer to have an actual excuse for it, because then it makes it more meaningful for me.” She meets your gaze and smiles again. “See, I worry if I were to turn into a human too often without a decent enough reason, then it would lose the magic it has for me, so to speak. And with how much I love to be human, I don’t want to take the chance of losing any sort of interest.”
“I understand,” you say, and you both near the cave. “Why do selkies usually like to turn into humans? Is it to see our world, or, is it curiosity, or is there another reason?”
“It depends on the selkie,” Moirine replies. “Many of my kin grow curious, yes, and they use it as a learning experience. The Seamother actively pushes us to try living among the humans for a time, in fact – she feels it’s incredibly useful and entertaining given what splendors there are to experience that we wouldn’t if we stayed underwater our whole lives. Of course, there are some cases where selkie choose to become humans for the sake of love. Love is a powerful essence, and we selkie aren’t immune to it.”
You nod at this and absorb her words as you make it to the cave.
Moirine goes in first, and you follow in shortly after her. The cave is dark and dreary, the air inside much colder than outside, and somewhat… thicker, too; it certainly feels like it’s thicker with how your chest begins to feel moments later. It’s noticeable either way.
“Ah, dark and stinky,” Moirine says. “That’s how I like my mysterious caves, for sure.”
You blink, but, don’t respond.
You trek inwards, finding that the path starts to swirl around instead of going straight ahead – it’s not easy to see, unfortunately, but, Moirine stays close to you, enough that you don’t lose sight of her even amid the murk within the cave. You wonder if this cave is the Shard, or, if the cave leads to the Shard. You have no way of telling, really.
“When’s the last time you turned into a human, Moirine?” you ask.
“You mean besides when I showed you I could do it?” she replies.
“Oh, yeah,” you say.
She chuckles and takes hold of your wrist before she answers. “I’d say the last time I became human was… perhaps a few years ago, roughly. At the time, I’d met another human not unlike you, pup, only they weren’t turned into a selkie at random by some nasty djinn. No, they were actually gifted the ability to become a selkie because one of their relatives, their grandmother, was a natural selkie that chose to marry a human and lived on the surface for many, many years with the family she started alongside him.”
“Oh!” You let her lead you along, thankful for her presence. “Does that mean selkie can have human children, I take it? And do those children gain the selkie powers, or…?”
“We can have human children, if we choose to,” Moirine replies. “But, any selkie that bears children with a human, that child’s selkie blood will b dormant at birth – the selkie relative has to be the one to ‘activate’ their blood, otherwise, it will remain dormant for the rest of their normal lives, and should that child pass on their genes, then the selkie blood will stay asleep within their descendents until a selkie is able to awaken it in full.”
You frown in the dark as the two of you turn right. “Why is that?”
“It is partly due to the nature of us selkie,” Moirine says. “Ever since the first ancient selkie gained the ability to turn into a human, it was essentially something they decided via their essence – and if you think about it,” she glances back at you briefly, “it makes sense why. Many humans would be… rather alarmed to have their offspring suddenly transform into seal-like creatures at a certain age. Thus, it’s easier to relegate, pup.”
“Ah, yeah, that makes sense,” you say. “Where IS this Shard at, by the way?”
“We’re almost there,” Moirine says.
Another minute or two of walking into the cave and you come upon a small opening from the path you’ve been walking on – opening seems to lead nowhere at first, but, when Moirine motions you more to the right, you see that there’s a large hole in the cave’s wall not far from you. It’s a hole big enough for you each to walk through.
“Oh…” you say.
Moirine motions you on, and, you both move toward the hole. It’s pure black, and you can’t see anything on the other side, even when you try your best. Moirine enters first, and, while you do hesitate for a heartbeat, you swallow your reservations and follow.
The blackness lingers briefly, until, as you follow behind Moirine, light begins to trickle into the hole; within minutes, the hole becomes increasingly brighter, until it opens up, and you both exit into another location – gone is the valley with the giant hills on all sides, and instead, you find yourself in a similar wooded area like the forest before.
This time, though, the trees are more evenly separated from one another instead of clumped together, and the ground is much more barren, lacking the grass from the island – it’s not quite ‘dead’ looking as far as you can see, but the air is noticeably colder, and the sky is much cloudier than it was in the last two locations you were in.
“This doesn’t look like the one I was in either,” you say. Your shoulders sag. “Jeez, I’m beginning to think we maybe should’ve stayed in my world to find the right Shard.”
Moirine shakes her head. “Come now, pup, don’t despair so easily. I did say this way would work well enough, or else I wouldn’t have suggested it in the first place.” She grins at you, then sniffs the air several times. “Ooh. In fact, we won’t have to go very far this time at all, because there’s two nearby Shards – and when I say nearby, I mean they’re only about a minute away from where we’re currently standing. Come, come.”
She motions you on eagerly, and you suck down your reservations.
You don’t go far at all, just like she said; you walk for roughly two or so minutes forward, passing a row of trees, until you come to a rather large tree that takes up a lot more space than the others. Moirine stops in front of this tree in particular, and points at it.
“This tree has two Shards located at it,” Moirine says. “See the big hole there in front?”
“That’s one,” she says. “The other is right on the other side, I can tell from smell alone.”
“At least this one is closer,” you remark. “But, how do we know if one will lead us to the right area or not? It seems like it’s purely a guessing game at this rate, but with how many Shards you said there are, I’m worried we may end up getting lost looking for it.”
Moirine shakes her head. “I told you before, pup. I can smell the right one out, and we’ve been heading down the proper path – I haven’t said anything because I didn’t want you to assume your choices were this or that, but, believe me: we’re going the right way. We’ve had other Shards I could’ve led us to, yet I didn’t because I’ve been seeking out YOUR scent. Your scent has been getting stronger with each Shard, pup.”
You gawk. “My scent?”
“Yup,” she says. “The good thing about humans is that your scent lingers in a set area for quite a while now, especially in a Shard. It stands out so well, it’s impossible to miss,” she smirks and taps her nose, “your stink is sweet to me, and I’ve been tracking it bit by bit. One way or another, either of the Shards in front of us will take us closer.”
You stare at her for a long pause before shaking your head. “Can you tell which one is the better choice from where we are, though? To make this a bit faster, I mean?”
She taps her chin. “Not without venturing into the Shard in question, no.”
You look toward the giant tree, at the gaping hole you spot in its trunk on one side.
“I could go into each and smell out the area if you want me to,” Moirine says. “Or we can pick one and go from there, you know.” She shrugs. “It’s your choice, really. And no, I won’t abandon you if you prefer to wait while I go into each Shard. Who knows, I may pick the perfect one on the first try if we do it that way. What do you think?”
Your lips twitch. What do you prefer to do? You aren’t sure… you need to consider it.
Written by Hollowpage on 30 May 2021
The end (for now)