Four women stood around a wrought-iron table.
Avani leaned on her hands, palms digging into the metal leaves and animals on the surface before her. Seika stood off to the side, back to the table with her arms crossed, her traditional glare aimed down at the toe of her tapping right boot as she leaned on her left.
Mesi stood opposite her fiery sister, the table between them, right hip pressed into the table edge and her hands on her waist as she examined the waterfowl and fish decorating the nearby table leg.
Khalama was more restless, pacing back and forth behind her customary seat, dragging her hands across the top of the chair back with each passing. Finally, she came to a dead stop directly behind her chair. When she spoke, her words seemed aimed into the Void itself, rather than at any of her Sisters.
“How long do you think We will have to wait?”
Avani raised her head ever so slightly to consider her youngest Self. Khalama stood, arms hanging at her sides, eyes and chin tipped upwards as if contemplating stars. Avani had formed innumerable millennia before even Seika came to existence, and such a long wait for company had imbibed her with more patience than the other three combined. With a small shrug and a shake of her blunt bangs, she answered:
“As long as We have to. The human is proving incapable of deciphering the code. It seems We have bestowed an accidental gift onto the wrong species.”
Mesi swept around dramatically at “gift”. Inwardly, Khalama rolled her eyes. Short on responsibility and long on drama, that was Mesi. After all, it was her fault the damnable thing had been lost in the first place! She’d had an excuse, as Mesi always did when she screwed up, but it made no sense and the other three could tell even she didn’t believe her own story. Really, how could a multi-ton eight-pointed eons-old star tablet just roll away? They didn’t even reside on a plane that adhered to the laws of physics. It wasn’t even being held anywhere near the Threshold, and rolling was just out of the question. And into the Weaving, at that!
Seika threw a look halfway over her shoulder, her gaze eventually settling somewhere directly to her left. With a flip of her off-kilter ponytail, she turned her eyes back to her toes, but not before speaking her mind.
“It won’t take them long, Sister-Self. The humans are growing smarter every day. I know You watch them in that crystal of Yours when you think we aren’t looking. One day, they will crack that code. If We wait until that moment, We will be far too late.”
Mesi, attempting to regain a little of what remained of her dignity as a Facet, laughed airily and pulled her braid over her shoulder.
“Always so optimistic! I’m sure nothing will happen, and You’re just angry there’ll be one less thing to blame Me for.”
“It’s not blame if it’s true.”
Avani raised her hands in an exasperated calming gesture.
“Sisters! We cannot fight at this crucial juncture! We know that It is reacting and We know the effect is localized to one human. One, insignificant human who doesn’t even understand the changes It is inflicting. And, please consider that We don’t even know which of all the billions of humans It has chosen, nor do We know where this new Shifter even is. It seems that there is still nothing We can do, and arguing like children will not help Our cause.”
Seika spun on her heel to glare at her eldest Self. Khalama flinched involuntarily. Seika’s temper flares were a fearsome sight to behold. All glinting eyes, sharp and directed gestures, the Fire Facet could flay a weaker creature with her words alone. Her voice, naturally of a lower timbre, dropped even more into a growl hissed through clenched teeth that could send shivers up a lesser being’s spine.
“How can you simply prescribe patience?! It’s activated! It’s chosen another Shifter! Do you not remember the other times It chose one? Innumerable earthquakes that split Our beautiful Pangaea! Rainstorms that lasted for decades! Volcano clouds that filled the air with dust for years! I will not stand here and watch My element spiral out of My control, not again, and especially not at the hands of a human!”
Mesi, once so smug, now began to look a little nervous. She’d been so young when the first of the quakes struck the planet, she could barely remember them. The rains, however, and the raging storms would stay with her for eternity (however long that really was). She knew this whole mess was her fault, so she decided to take the first real step towards cleaning it up.
“That settles it.”
The other three looked at her in surprise. Mesi swallowed, straightened her usually hunched shoulders, and tried to sound more authoritative than she felt.
“We need to find It. This new Shifter cannot be allowed to mature.”
Avani held her gaze for a moment, then blinked slowly and nodded.
“Then that is what we will do.”