Echwor sat on the docks, his head in his hands. On his face he had fixed a pout befitting his young age. The boy, blue of skin, eye, and hair, had just failed for the seventh time that morning to catch anything more than a sharp gash in his pride. As an Etharian, he was expected to be a great swimmer and a great fisher. Echwor was neither. At the age of seven, he still couldn’t accomplish the simple feats of a five or six year old. His pout only worsened when he looked at the water.
In front of the dock that he was perched on swam his older sister, Elemara. Older than him by eight years, she was the perfect candidate for his teacher. That, and his parents, as current king and queen of Etharias, didn’t want anyone to know of their son’s shortcomings. As their only son, he would inherit the crown at their passing, though Echwor desperately wished that his sister would be able to succeed the crown instead, though that was not the custom and custom meant much to his people.
A fit of giggles from his sister broke him out of his thoughts and deepened his pout. “Oh, come on now. If you keep that up, your face will get stuck like that, though I’d say it would be an improvement.” Elemara let out another fit of giggles as she swam backwards, away from Echwor’s attempts to splash her.
Defeated by her flight, he dove in after her. With the grace of her mother, Elemara dove down into the water as well, her extra set of translucent eyelids coming down to protect her eyes and allow her to see easier under the water. Echwor attempted pursuit, but found that he was lacking in both grace and power as a swimmer. Within moments, she was already farther ahead that he could manage. Far enough ahead that the darkness of the water began to obscure her form. Far enough away that Echwor began to get worried.
“Elly, come back! You can’t go down that far!” It was a law of the Etharian people that no one was permitted to go to the bottom of the great lake that their city was built upon. It was said that at the bottom of the lake lived their God and creator, Etharias, from which they derived their own name. He was said to be a great being of immense power that, after creating the Etharians, took on a physical form to forever watch over his people. Because of this, it was forbidden to disturb their God and creator.
When she heard his calls, Elemara stopped her movement and turned around, her brother just barely within sight. “What are you getting so worked up about? What’s the worse that could happen?”
“Elly, you know the laws! The elders told us that it’s forbidden.” Echwor’s voice began to crack with worry and from the strain of the maintained volume.
“Fine, fine. Don’t freak out, Ech.” With a look as if all of her fun had been spoiled, Elemara swam back up to join her brother. Together, they returned to the city for their lessons.
Lights of the finest blue lined the docks that led from building to building. Along their lengths stood a number of guards, all adorned in the same scale-mail armor, decorated with shells of all sorts and wielding pikes. They stood at attention as the royal family, marked by their vibrant blue cloaks and crowns made of fish bone and sapphires, made their way across the bridges. Among them were little Echwor and his older sister Elemara. Together, the group made their way to a large building made of clay that had been built around one of the giant azure oak trees that grew up from the lake.
Inside the building, many Etharians had already taken seats on the long benches that lined the building. It served as a chapel of sorts from which the Etharians could worship their God. At the far end of the building was a large hole that lead out in the waters below. It was believed that this made it easier for Etharias to hear them. The royal family quickly took their seats and awaited the service to begin.
“I need to step out quickly.” Elemara spoke up, already rising from her seat. Others took note of her, though most averted their eyes when the king himself looked their way.
Elemara’s mother, a beautiful woman with all of the regality that made a queen, nodded her delicate head, her blue locks not moving from their tightly bound braids. “Alright, Elemara, but please, hurry back. You wouldn’t want to miss the service.”
Elemara nodded back to her mother before leaving the building at a brisk walk.
The service began and had been going for a little while before Echwor noticed that his sister hadn’t returned. When he mentioned this to his parents, they had instructed him to seek her out. The only place he knew to look was their house, so he made his way there.
The light in her room was on, he could tell that before he entered the house, but there were no other signs of her presence. He hurried up to the room and pushed the door open, though still he could not see her. He almost left the room before he saw that the closet door was slightly ajar. Without thinking, he walked over to the door and pulled it open.
There, kneeling before a statue of a woman was his sister. All around her burned incense of frankincense, juniper, and cedar, all of which were scents of the goddess of ice, Shuara. Echwor couldn’t control himself and let out an audible gasp that made Elemara turn around as quickly as she could, knocking over several of the incense. Not waiting for an explanation, Echwor ran off to his parents.
“Regardless of lineage, you have been found to be a heretic. As the king of Etharias, it is my duty to cast out any threat to its people, even if that threat is born of my own blood.” The king stood before an audience of all of Etharias. To his right knelt his daughter, Elemara, her hands bound by chains. To his left was his wife, overcome by sorrow and eyes stained with tears, and his son. “It is with a heavy heart that I cast down this decision, but it is one I cannot forgo. Elemara, for your crimes against our God and creator, Etharias, I hereby banish you from this place. Your return to Etharias will be punishable by death.”
Silence spread throughout the crowd like a disease. Not a word was spoken, letting the kings last words ring out in the air and the minds of all that attended. The only noise was the gentle sounds of the waters around them and the uncontrollable sobs of the queen. After a long moment, guards came on either side of Elemara and lifted her to her feet. They would see her to the edge of the Etharian boundaries. There, they would leave her to fend for herself.
As she was being taken away, her gaze bore its way into Echwor, the beautiful eyes that had once sparkled for her brother now shone with contempt. Without warning, Echwor dropped to his knees and joined his mother in sorrow.