Untold Stories from the World of Myrrah: Niri’s Arrival in Solaire Part 6
read Part 5 here
Soukat’s funeral brought stillness to the Temple of Solaire from the heights of the translucent towers to the usually bustling wharves. It was also the first time that Niri walked through the wide gate set into a rose quartz wall and entered the inner recesses of the Temple to where the most powerful of Elementals lived, including Soukat’s mother, High Priesstess Enfallia.
Priest Bai walked Niri and Misma across the wide stone courtyard between towers so lofty they appeared to touch the sky. They blazed in the sun and what Rahnef had said came back to Niri. They did look like flames reaching high above her. Niri watched her feet, fighting sudden tears in her eyes.
Beyond the high towers, chipped stone blocks perched grew out of a rock outcrop. They looked old and battle worn, though they held back nothing more threatening than a forest. The woodland wasn’t the same as the wild jungle that grew on Niri’s home island of Tiero beyond the warding stones of the town. There were not as many flowers or vines, nor were the leaves as large or frilled. But it was a forest and felt safer to her than the bright towers and sunlit gardens of Solaire.
And beyond the forest, Niri saw that Solaire had one more secret to share. A lake glistened in the morning sun. When she finally reached its shore, Niri could see the small bay opened up to a lake whose farther shore lay beyond sight.
“It is the sea?” Misma asked after touching the water. Niri did the same, feeling the salt in the water with her gift before she tasted its tang in the drops on her fingers when she put them to her lips. “I didn’t think the Temple of Solaire was on a point.”
“It is not, child,” Bai said, sadness weighing his voice. “This is the Lake of Tears and lies behind the Temple of Solaire. Though it is salty like the ocean.”
Anything more Bai would have told them about the lake was dismissed as twelve finely dressed Priests and Priestesses walked down the leaf scattered stone steps between the old Temple and shore. Behind them came a thirteenth carrying a bundle wrapped in red cloth in his arms.
Niri did not need Bai or Misma to tell her the last man who wore robes the color of dark earth was Soukat’s father. The flowing tears and how he cradled the small bundle to his chest said that. Niri took Misma’s hand, feeling the loss of her father and mother afresh. The tears sliding down her cheeks washed the pride of small accomplishments in Solaire away. In that moment, Niri would have traded her gift of controlling water for her mother’s hug.
Misma too was crying, though she’d suffered under Soukat’s taunts far longer than Niri. A sudden intake of breath cut off her friend’s tears. Niri followed Misma’s surprised stare to where the Priestesses had gathered on the shore. Soukat’s mother blocked her husband’s way to the small boat waiting on the gentle water.
“Fire should not be laid to rest in water,” High Priestess Enfallia stated, clear voice rippling through the silent gathering. “He should be burned on shore.”
Next to her, High Priestess Lyannder in her lavender robes stiffened, hands clenched in irritation. High Priest Nezerreth placed a hand on Lyannder’s arm before turning to Enfallia.
“We honor all elements in this ceremony,” Nezerreth said. “The wind will fill the sails as he is cradled by the wood over water until the fire takes all.”
Enfallia narrowed her eyes, but did not speak. Or move. It was Soukat’s father who ended the ultimatum. He stepped off the path and walked around his wife, fussing over the drape of the blanket as he lay the little burden in the boat. Enfallia stood pale and livid as she watched her husband defy her. He never glanced at his wife as he raised the small red sail and pushed the boat holding their child’s body out into the open water.
A gentle breeze immediately filled the sail, pushing the craft from shore quickly as if to keep anyone from going after it. Niri doubted Soukat’s mother would touch water even if her son rose from the dead and yelled for her. Enfallia found her vengeance though. The small boat erupted in flames with a fury to outshine the morning sun.
Niri stumbled a step away, fighting a desire to call water to sooth the blaze. Bai dropped his hand to her shoulder, sensing the desire as much as her fumbled control. Niri released the urge, but not the touch she had to the lake. Though she stood on shore, she felt water wrapped around her, a cool comfort to the loss flooding her soul. She wanted to go home. But part of her feared that her parents wouldn’t understand who she was becoming. Just as Soukat’s mother didn’t understand how little of a gift he’d had.
Niri and Misma held each other as cinders fell from the burning boat, the fire so hot it consumed all but a few charred boards, which drifted in the water. A few people stepped away from the lake shore, but the knot of High Priestesses and Priests waited.
Soukat’s father stayed at the water’s edge until the last speck of the boat which had held his son’s body fell out of sight. Head bowed, he turned and trudged up the rough bank, nearly running into the one person who did not move from his path.
“You disobeyed a High Priestess,” Enfallia hissed to her husband.
He looked at her with red rimmed eyes. “I’ll take banishment as my punishment,” he answered. “I never want to see you or Solaire again.”
A whisper ran through the gathering like a suddenly stirred breeze. Soukat’s father brushed by his wife for the second time that morning. This time, she flinched.
Bai glanced from the tense group standing on the main staircase to Solaire to Niri and Misma. “We will walk back the long way along the lake shore.” Bai turned his back on the High Council, waving the two girls ahead of him.
The gentle waves lapping the stony shore and birds calling from tree tops broke the silence as they walked. Far down the shore, small buildings were visible tucked against the trees. But the sadness of the day stifled Niri’s curiosity. The desire to know what they were and if she could visit them faded before reaching her lips. But she did finally find the urge to speak.
“Can he, Soukat’s father, really leave Solaire?”
Bai glanced at her as he directed them onto a path that led into the forest, curing back toward the Temple. “Yes, child. None of us are trapped here. You are too young to be allowed to leave, but many who live in Solaire journey elsewhere. Some choose to live in other towns.”
“I didn’t know that,” Misma said.
It was a comfort in its way – to know that though she was an Elemental, Niri was not bound to live out her days here in a place that flipped between inducing amazement and terror in the same hour.
The golden towers of Solaire appeared through the leaves overhead, appearing all the brighter lit by the afternoon sun while she stood in dense shade. She had not chosen to come to the Temple. She had not wanted to be a Water Elemental. But she was and she was here. Solaire was where she had to live. For now. But maybe not forever.