The water was cold silk on her skin as the currents dragged her under. Rays of light scattered around the boat-shaped silhouette above her. The taste of salt was strong upon her tongue as bubbles rippled over the threshold of her lips. Mouth, she had to keep her mouth closed. Her chest tightened, a pull deep within her throat, as she struggled against the current. The panic that tried to claw its way out of her lungs had taken a life of its own. Breathe! it screamed at her. You have to breathe! Eyes bulging, light fading, she obeyed. Salt was the only reward she reaped for her efforts.
The soft sand of the bottom cushioned her descent. What little light reached her narrowed to a single point as the weight of the ocean bore down on her. Her body betrayed her, she could feel it cave under the pressure. The tiny point the world had been reduced to suddenly rushed into her eyes, a white sheet of light. She knew she must have died, what other explanation could there be for the woman she saw within that light?
No, mother, the woman answered. The cadence of her voice resonated throughout the light, causing it to shimmer and flutter. It is not your time. You must go back.
There were things she wanted to say, things she had never gotten the chance to tell her. There were things she wanted to scream, things she wanted to cry and lament. She could not let go of the rage that she carried close to her heart. She had to stay, she had to speak. Summoning words onto her tongue proved futile, for all that came out were bubbles.
Go. Take the hand Coral is offering. Return…
She thrashed, raging at the mocking bubbles of futility. The dagger fate had twisted into her heart had to be removed, could her daughter not see that? If death was the cost of peace it was a price she would pay willingly. If only her words would resonate, if only her plea could be heard, then she could be forgiven…
Take the hand Coral is offering. Return… to my sister…
Celeste. The name coursed through her like the shock of an electric eel. Her eyes burst open. The darkness and chill of the bottom flooded her senses. Then a glow of red, blue and orange appeared before her. Eyes of electric blue peered into hers from within the radiance. Soothing and warm the gaze of Coral was, as the Serpent of the Deep appeared before her. She extended a hand. Her eyes closed, lids too heavy to keep up. A smile found its way onto her lips.
“Mother!” Celeste yelled before breathing another surge of air into mouth of the woman lying limp before her. She put her hands on the woman’s chest and pumped. “Come on, wake up! Don’t do this to me!”
Tears streaked Celeste’s cheeks with salt. Sweat creased her brow. Adrenaline stoked the fire within the furnace her heart had become. “Come on…”
Eventually it washed over her like a wave crashing onto a beach. She slumped as the will to fight ebbed out of her. She took a couple of shaky breaths, blinking as if to dispel the lie of what her eyes told her she saw. She did not even trust her ears at first. It took the good half of an excruciating moment before it truly sunk in. Coughing, her mother was coughing. She trembled with relief and the aftermath of fright.
“Celeste,” her mother croaked once the light of life shone out from the woman’s eyes once again. “The dagger…”
“Hush, mother,” Celeste commanded. “Rest now, here,” she continued as she received a blanket from one of the crew on board. “Wrap this about you. Let’s get you dry and warm.”
“The dagger,” her mother croaked again. “You pulled it out.”
“Dagger? What dagger?”
“The one in my heart,” her mother smiled. “I saw your sister.”