A hand encompassed Kianika’s wrist causing her eyes to shoot open. The weakness in her veins subsided, as if she was nothing more than an addict, reaching tranquility from the latest hit. The need for oxygen subsided allowing her thoughts to turn instead to the thing pulling her further down into the ocean. It appeared to be a woman made of nothing more substantial than the water itself, her hair like the inside of an abalone shell: blue, purple, and green all dancing together. She glowed with a gentle light, allowing Kianika to see the ocean as if she still stood upon the earth during a twilight stroll.

“Welcome Kianika, descendant of Lorelai.” The woman’s mouth stayed shut, but the words rang into Kianika’s mind nonetheless. She knew that she heard exactly what, the woman or creature or was it a thing, wanted her to hear. She also knew that she would be able to speak back, using a fresh channel in her mind. It felt like this channel always existed, but she never knew how to find the opening, that by touching this woman, entire sections of her brain had lit up when previously they slept in darkness.

Kianika asked, “who are you?” She paused, and when she received no answer she tried again, “Am I transferring to the final juncture, will I see my mother soon?” The woman of the waves smiled and shook her head. She started to touch the gold weights still slung around Kianika’s arms and waist, meant to take her to the bottom, and fill the god’s coffers with wealth. When the woman touched them the gold melted into liquid and the ocean carried away the precious substance. So much wealth, dedicated to the gods by her people, now less solid than this creature of the waves. “Why are you releasing my bonds?” Kianika sent to the woman, fearful of a denial of her sacrifice. After all of her preparation would she return to the land, a failure to her people?

“You chanted the sacrificial words Kianika. Sacrifice does not always equate to death.” The last golden weight disappeared, however, instead of floating upwards Kianika felt the pads of her feet sink into sand. A whistle escaped the woman’s lips and carried itself as bubbles across the sea, causing two hippocampi to canter forward. The creatures heads looked like the strongest of thoroughbreds, but their front legs were strong fins, and their hindquarters were replaced with a robust tail, like that of a dolphin. Giant clam saddles lay across their backs, and seashells decorated their bits while seaweed reigns hung around their necks. One of them swam forward close enough that the woman of the waves could retrieve something from its mouth. She held it out in front of her.

A necklace lay in her hand, one of incredible beauty. Fluorite obelisks dangled down separated by pink pearls and in the center lay a gastropod shell, made of crystal. “Wear this, it will allow you breath without using your land lungs. I can’t clasp your wrist our entire journey.” Kianika took the necklace and struggled to put it on with one hand but to no avail. Finally, the other woman released Kianika’s hand. The feeling of peace fled Kianika’s body, and her lungs shrieked. Her eyes lost focus. Kianika kicked upward towards a surface far too high above her. And she held one hand on the doorknob of death. But as soon as the necklace rested around her neck she could breathe again, or at least felt no need to participate in that simple human function.

“Come, our journey will be short on these two,” the woman of the waves said while twirling her hand around the reigns and floating upwards into the saddle. Kianika hesitated, but the woman only laughed. “They are hippocampi, no need to worry, they are of similar temperament to their land cousins.”

“Where are we going?”

“To my palace, to meet two of my sisters. Our mission is to rescue the third.