Silently, she drifted through the cold and the dark, hair billowing out around her like the graceful bell of a jellyfish. Ah, a jellyfish… no thought, no intent, just a peaceful existence of nothingness until stimuli provoked otherwise. Stimuli, like that horrible, terrible, beautiful song, calling out to her through void tides like it always had so long, long ago.

Long? Had it been long? How much everything had slipped past since it had last wrung its enchanting, ugly melody in her mind? A moment, a millennium? It reached out to her with loving, wretched hands, yearning to wrap her in its embrace yet again, and she so longed to reach out to it in turn, to lose herself in its discordant, miserable, wonderful glory…

No.


A single whispered defiance cut through the aria, and her eyes snapped open, suddenly and irrevocably herself again. Of course, of course, “no”... how could she ever allow it to be otherwise? The very idea of the disappointment which must have been written across their faces if she did… Heh. “No.”

She turned her face upward, looking to that circling ring of light above her, and willed herself to move. Upward, upward, upward, she glided like a knife through the waves, urging herself to break the surface once more. There were things to be done, and this time they would be. They would be. The halo of sunlight drew closer, closer, closer, until she could reach out with her hand to touch it, pass through it, and then-

She burst out of the water, gasping in a long breath of air as she got shakily to her feet. She cast her gaze around, taking in the place she’d found herself in; a stone courtyard of some kind? Shops lay all around, bearing gaudy signs illuminated by some unknown sorcery. The square seemed to be bustling with people, enough to fill a town it seemed; some kind of festival? The more she looked, the more she saw. What she took as a square seemed to be more of an intersection - the shops with their glass storefronts, displaying all manner of treasures and incredible luxuries, stretched on in four cardinal directions, and that was but one of two distinct floors, capped by a ceiling of vaulted glass. Not a square then, but some kind of incredible trade center? How many kingdoms must be represented here?

“Mommy, why is that lady in the fountain?” A child’s voice caught her ear; a young girl it seemed, no more than four or five. She straightened, squaring her shoulders. This child was yet one example of all that stood to be lost if she failed.

She stepped over the small wall of the fountain she had risen out of, gesturing to herself with one hand and throwing the other wide. “Fret not, dear girl, for I am the Witch of the Waters, and I have come to defend you all from the evil which threatens this age!”

“Don’t stare, sweetie,” the girl’s mother chided gently, beginning to pull her away. “That nice lady’s just having a breakdown, it's none of our business.”

A breakdown?! What gall! The Witch of the Waters was no simple madwoman! Had truly so much time passed that even she had been forgotten? Then what of the great foe? Had he, too, fallen into obscurity? But if so, then… what manner of defenses must be in place to protect the people? If the warnings of his return had been lost, then…

She must move quickly.

“Bye, crazy lady!” the child called after her. “Good luck!”

“Thank you, child!” she called behind her, waving her arm in farewell. “I shall surely have need it!”