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Black, White, and Everything Between

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Quiet, unassuming. The very seas bend to her call, and mortal minds warp beneath a whispered song. Yet she remains a lonely waif.

At last, the crashing waves finally calmed down, the constant cracking of the water fading away into a low hiss and crackle. The ocean slammed against the rocks with such force, flecks of water leaped over the edge of the cliff. Thelxiope dragged her feet away as specks of moisture sprinkled her toes and splashed on the fringes of the short blue dress wrapped around her, sliding them further behind the rock she was leaning against. The salty air breezed over her face and pulled back her dirty blonde hair, and she absentmindedly brushed the pink conch in her hands.

The magic conch. The shell she had found on the shore one fateful day, stuck between the jagged points carved out by the ocean. The shell that could sway the sea when she whispered her songs through it, silently slipping her influence between the rolling waves. Sure, its influence over the salty water was very limited, only powerful enough to raise a wave a few feet high, but it was still something. That something might have helped her save someone, so she wasn't complaining.

It was a regular occurrence for Thelxiope to wander out to the cliffs overlooking the cove as the moon shone down on the dark rocks, letting her voice spread over the rhythmic breathing of the ocean, weaving over and under the song of the waves climbing up the rocks, before falling back into the whirling blue sea. By chance, she had seen the signal cast out into the distance, set against the stars, flickering on and off. The speck of light drew her eyes to the ship on the horizon, bobbing in the sea, half of it already torn away to reveal the hollowed-out pit within. From the way it tossed and turned, she could tell it was struggling to stay afloat, so she did the only thing she could. She blew into her conch, weaving a hastily thought out tune through the folds of the shell, bringing its magical powers to light. The air through the conch coaxed the writhing ocean to bring the boat closer, and hopefully, bring whoever remained on board to safety.

She hadn't meant for it to crash against the rocks.

To her relief, no one seemed hurt from the crash. There was no blood splattered against the dark rocks, at least. She watched the wreckage from a distance, hiding behind a rock as a group of two men wandered among the shattered planks, and the ripped sails stretched over the shoreline. It was how she usually found out about things she wanted to know, observing people from a distance. She was just too shy to approach them in any other way.

One of the men, the figure with broad shoulders, scraggly beard, and blue coat, yelled something. It wasn't loud enough for her to hear, but from the way his face twisted into a snarl, and the awkward way he jerked as he said it, he had probably tripped and cursed the Light. He didn't look important, so she barely paid him any heed.

The other man, with a deep red robe draped over him and the grey hair, turned on him and said something back. His voice barely carried over, and where the bearded man's words were a distorted mumble, no words the grey-haired man made reached her ears.

Whatever he said, the bearded man wasn't happy with it. He yelled something back, and Thelxiope was able to catch a "paid for" and "wasn't expecting", whatever those implied. The grey-haired man remained still, taking his companion's shouting with a calm face. He waited until the other man stopped talking before his lips started moving again, speaking in the same quiet voice.

This went on for quite a while, with the bearded man yelling something, and the grey-haired man saying something in return. Back and forth they went, some exchange going on between them that Thelxiope could neither hear or care enough about to try to listen in. With a sigh, she ran a hand through her hair, letting her fingers roam over the conch, uninterested in the scene playing out before her. She was about to sneak away when her eyes caught movement from farther out into the mess of splintered wood. She glanced over the rest of the shipwreck, looking over the broken floorboards and the giant wooden shaft split in half, and found a man in a dark crimson overcoat stepping out onto a door thrown to the ground.

Her face lit up in recognition, and her gaze traveled down to the base of her neck. Nestled just above her chest was a tiny bird doll, worn and made of stitched rags, dangling limply from a string wound about her neck. Her free hand slowly reached up to grasp at it, turning it over as she mulled over the doll in her hands, a reminder of sorts to something she'd rather not dwell on. She glanced around the area around her, but there was no one else present on the cliffs. Just to make sure, she checked, and double-checked before she finally made her way over to the wreckage.

Quiet as an owl's feathers combing through the wind, she tip-toed down the cliffside, carefully placing her feet on small ledges protruding out in descending order. Having been to the cove numerous times before, Thelxiope knew where to put her feet, and she crept down to the shore below as easily as if she were scaling a set of stairs. Occasionally, her feet would find themselves submerged in the small puddles pooled up in the uneven rocks, sending a chill up her leg as the cold water swallowed her bare feet, but she was quick to pull them out. Against the dark cliffs, she barely stood out in the shadows cast by the moonlight. At least, until she reached the bottom.

The moment she hit the floor, she took off running. The other two men called out to her as she ran past, but she ignored whatever they said. They didn't matter. There was only one who did.

She called out, and the wind carried her voice further. The man turned his head, a clear indication that he had heard her. A confused expression flickered across his face, an eyebrow climbing up his face as she approached. He didn't recognize her, it seemed. It had been several years since she'd caught a glimpse of him, so that was understandable.

Thelxiope crossed the mess of sheets tangled in the broken wooden boards, careful not to step on any splinters revealed by the crash. A few of the rocks poked the soles of the feet, but none of the protrusions amounted to any more than a few bumps, certainly not enough to pierce her skin.

The man hadn't moved from his spot by the time she came to a stop in front of him. Her lungs were beginning to strain as she slowed her pace, not used to much physical activity. She stumbled for a few feet, brushing aside a plank that lay in front of her. The man didn't seem any more perplexed as she bent over to catch her breath, pulling aside the strands of hair that dropped over her face. It didn't change the strange mix of emotions she felt seeing him again.

"It's you," she said between short gasps, her voice a strangled and disbelieving whisper. "After all these years–you came back!"

A breeze passed between them. An awkward pause settled following her words, as the man seemed to take a moment to recall her face. He probably had no recollection of her, but that was fine. She had waited years for a chance like this. A few more seconds couldn't hurt.

Behind her, the grey-haired man opened his mouth to speak. The man cut him off with a pointed look, tilting his head towards the grey-haired man to make it more clear. Then, he turned his attention back to her, and the raised eyebrow lowered itself again.

He greeted her in return, attempting to pass himself off as recognizing her. Internally, she preened a bit at his attempt, seeing as he still tried to remember her in the first place.

"You don't have to pretend," she said. "I-I don't think you would remember me."

The man chuckled at that as he flushed a bit, no doubt a little embarrassed at being caught out. He asked for her name, motioning towards her. It wasn't surprising since he had always been so formal and polite.

"Thelxiope. My name is Thelxiope."

A nod. He was taking that in, marking down her name in his memory. Maybe he'd even keep it around for a while, so she wouldn't have to introduce herself again the next time they met. His eyes wandered to the mangled heap that was once a ship, broken into pieces lying around them before they snapped back to her. He asked if she was the one to bring them to shore, and how she had done it.

"W-well, it was really nothing I did. Just this magic conch."

Thelxiope didn't think he'd look as surprised as he did. It was common knowledge around here that he was a practitioner of the dark arts. Then again, it wasn't often that a girl could find a shell capable of stirring the ocean to its beck and call. Maybe it was some kind of elusive artifact? Of course, he swept it aside in a matter of seconds. He brought up the topic of payment, offering to pay her a sum of money in gratitude for her rescue.

"Oh no, you don't have to. But there is one thing I'd like."

The man leaned forward, eager to listen. She'd caught his attention.

"My sister," she said, lowering her voice to barely even a squeak. "She's been missing since before you left. I've been trying to find her for years, calling out to her with this conch. But now that you're back, do you think you could help me find her?"

He agreed almost instantly. There was no hesitation there, just a firm conviction to help a lost soul. It seemed the man hadn't changed much over the years he had been gone, still as kind as she remembered. Back when he used to live in the giant manor on the hill, he would help her whenever she got lost in the woods, so he had to be a good person.

Okay, maybe he'd only helped her four times out of the hundreds of times she had lost track of the serpentine paths winding through the corrupted countryside, but she'd refuse to believe that an evil man would help her like the few times he did. That had to mean something.

She motioned for him to follow, as she turned back around. "Come on, then!" she said. "Let's get you back to the hamlet. You look like you could use a moment to rest after your trip at sea."

With one last look over her shoulder, she took off towards the cliff. His two companions were sure to follow after them, but she couldn't find herself to worry about them. At least she had the man from the manor back in her life, and she was on the track to finding her sister.