“You must forgive me that I do not rise to greet you, I am old.” Thlethlut said from her seat under the canopy of her dock. “Please, come and join me here in the shade.” The back of her dock is connected directly to the island. She is surrounded by other docks on all three other sides.
The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko turn from her assistant and go to her.
“Hello, I’m the Muse of Mischief, thank you for agreeing to meet with us.” She extends her hand and Thlethlut reciprocates. “This is Agent Brzko.”
“It is an honor to meet you Thlethlut.”
“Please sit.” She slowly blinks her eyes and then uses them to point to the chairs she expects them to use. Both her speech and movement is slow with age. Even her eye appendages are wrinkled. “You are here about the dear Princess, Princess Cluthea. I remember when she emerged from her egg sac, oh everyone was so excited to have such a perfect little princess.”
“Did you know her?” M asked.
“Oh yes, oh yes. I still do. She has never been like her parents, she has always been all her own. I was in service to the King’s brother and Princess Cluthea would often visit with him and his children. She was so curious and outgoing.”
“Do you know where she is right now?” Brzko asked.
They wait for her to continue but she doesn’t, so M does.
“Is she OK, is she safe?”
Again they paused but she does not elaborate.
“Why did she leave her home, her parents? Is she upset about something?” Brzko asked.
“She is no longer upset, she is at peace now.”
“But why did she leave her home?”
“Love. A love that King Plyke and Queen Eyjdra will not understand.”
“Do you think she’d be willing to meet with us?”
Thethlut closes both of her eyes and leans her head back. It almost looks as if she’s gone to sleep but she hasn’t. Telepathy is taxing for the Blenia, and probably especially when they are 123.
She opens her eyes, but instead of tilting her head back up she rotated her eyes toward M and Brzko. “She will speak to you. On the island there is an underground chamber, you will be able to take the stairs down to get below the water level, she will be there behind the glass. The path behind the dock will take you there. Now, please forgive me but I am tired.”
They quickly thank her and make their exit so she can rest. The path behind her dock is paved, it leads them around the edge of the island, staying just above the sandy shores. They come to an intersection. As instructed they take the stairs descending underground. There is low level lighting along the edges of the stairs, their eyes adjusted to the semi-darkness as they descended. At the bottom of the stairs is a large room, the side nearest the water is made of glass. It was like being at a giant zoo aquarium, only instead of caged fish behind the glass there is a smallish, beautiful Spufurnia with jewels on her gills. Standing just behind her is someone else, a Blenia.
“Hello, I’m the Muse of Mischief and this is Agent Brzko. Are you Princess Cluthea?” M projects.
“Cluthea, yes. But I am no longer a princess. This is my partner Xaycarro. I understand that my parents have sent you, they do not understand why I left.”
“They seem genuinely worried about you. Are you OK Cluthea, are you here of your own free will?” M asked.
This makes her laugh. “Yes, of course. I love Xaycarro, we only want to be left alone to live our lives together. That is not possible if I remain the Princess of Utkrora. I willingly choose my husband over my position in the monarchy.”
“Cluthea may we have your permission to share what you’ve told us with King Plyke and Queen Eyjdra?” M asked.
“Yes you may tell them why I left. And please tell them that I am happy, this is what I want. They may not believe you though.”
Instead of asking another question M and Brzko wait for her to continue.
“They will not understand how Xaycarro and I can be together, they think that all Blenia breath with lungs and must live on the surface. But long ago the Blenia and Spubfurnia lived together underwater. They were equals living in harmony. At the time, all Blenia had gills just as Spubfurnia do. Some of us believe that the evolution was somehow caused by the Spubfurnia so they could take advantage of the Blenia. Without the Blenia, the Spubfurnia society would not have advanced to be what it is today. Because the evolution was the result of manipulation rather than a natural process, it is beginning to unravel. Many Blenia now have lungs and gills, as Xaycarro does. But because they are unsure of how that will be received by the Spubfurnia they keep it hidden, they resist the life of servitude, and they reside here where they are free to live above or below the surface.”
Xaycarro drifts forward and slides his arm around on of Cluthea’s front legs, he moves his tentacle eyes from looking at Cluthea to M and Brzko. “Please tell the King and Queen that Cluthea is safe, she is happy, she is loved. She does not want to see them. But if they want to express their anger at someone I will meet with them.”
Cluthea quickly turns her head toward Xaycarro. Their gazes locked while they have a brief private conversation. They turn back toward M and Brzko.
“Thank you for taking the time to meet with us it was a pleasure to meet you, although I wish the circumstances had been more favorable.” Cluthea projects. She and Xaycarro turn and swim back out into the open water.
M sends Brzko and Ferocity a single word, “Home.” And once again the room at the bottom of the stairs is empty.