The way home

When the dishes had been cleared, Elma and Shireen led Anna and Teak through the archway and around another maze of corridors. Finally, they came to a large room with a domed ceiling. 

Sunk in the centre of the room, was a pool of water. The pool was square-shaped, it's borders formed by a set of three steps that led down to the very edge of the water. Carved into the white polished stone of each step, a mosaic of seashells. A bright light shone up from the waters of the pool, casting a dancing pattern of waves onto the arched ceiling. 

Aside from the pool, the room was empty.

Elma motioned for Anna, Shireen, and Teak to stand on a different side of the pool. Elma took up position on the final side and held her hands out above the water. She closed her eyes and spoke in a reverent voice.

"Oh hear me mighty waters of the ocean! We were born in you! We will die in you! Thus we are one with you!"

Anna noticed the water began to bubble and hiss. 

"I ask that you grant me just a small portion of your power. Power to make clear that which was unclear. Like the ebb and flow of the currents, grant me this power for a short time and I vow I will return it."

A mist of smoke began to rise from the pool of water. It coiled and wrapped itself around Elma, draping her entire from with a wispy shell. Elma opened her eyes and the pool returned to a still calm. The aura of mist continued to cling to her body. 

Anna watched breathlessly. She wasn't quite sure what she was watching, but she was certainly impressed by it. 

"Our magic comes from the ocean, " Shireen explained. "The ocean is strong, so we ask its permission to use a portion of its power. It's very tiring to hold onto the magic, so we only tap into the power for a short while... then we have to give it back."

"What happens if you don't?" asked Anna.

"It kills us."

Elma motioned for silence. Concentrating, she drew her arms back, then "pushed" the mist away from her body. The mist flowed past her fingertips, arching out until it floated above the center of the pool. Hazy images began to form in the smoke.

"Anna McKay," Elma's voice boomed. "Your life has deviated from its natural path. A great evil has overshadowed you. To cast away that shadow, you must ask nature itself for the power to return you home." 

The hazy image sharpened until Anna saw a squat bearded figure sitting on a stony throne. 

"Meet with the dwarves that dwell beneath the mountains and get the blessing of the earth."

The image reformed, taking on a shape of a long necked bird, with a beautiful plumage of red feathers. 

"Meet with the phoenix that dwells in the light of the sun to get the blessing of fire."

Again the images in the mist swirled, this time breaking into several shapes. Each shape had the body of a woman, and the wings and legs of a bird.

"Finally, you must meet with the harpies that live on the top of the world and get the blessing of air. Do you understand?"

Anna nodded. "I do.. at least I think I do."

"You will require one more thing." Elma paused. "The blessing of the waters."

"How do I get that?" Anna asked.

Elma flicked a finger towards Anna, and the mist that had hung over the pool rushed towards her. As it surrounded Anna, she felt not panic, but a gentle calm, like something protecting her. The mist continue to envelope Anna for a moment, and then slid away, responding to the motions of Elma's hands, rolling down the steps and into the water.

"You already have it," Elma smiled.  

The End

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