Date Published: 5/22/21
An innocent naiad. A wounded boy. An adventure that will change their lives forever.
Plip is a naiad of the Great Waterfall, destined to one day sing the songs that send rain out into the world.
Akino isn’t destined for anything but trouble. His father long gone, his mother working on a plantation far away, he doesn’t really belong in the village below the Waterfall. And the villagers don’t let him forget it.
When Akino convinces Plip to travel down the mountain with him, for his own selfish purposes, he launches them into a world more dangerous than either of them could imagine. A world where people are not always what they seem and the rain does not fall evenly across the land.
E.B. Dawson was born out of time. Raised in the remote regions of a developing nation, traveling to America was as good as traveling thirty years into the future. Now she writes science fiction and fantasy to make sense of her unusual perspectives on life. Her stories acknowledge darkness, but empower and encourage people to keep on fighting, no matter how difficult their circumstances may be. She currently lives in Idaho with her family and her cat Maximus.
Plip shook herself and looked about tentatively. Out the opening of the globe, the caravan of kempelas strode on tirelessly over an endless sea of yellow sand. The bright blue sky hung low and thick all about them, almost tangible. Plip had the sensation for a moment that they were actually walking along the bottom of a great river, surrounded not by sky, but water.
Strange gray outcroppings began to emerge out of the blue. Porous rock which had been carved by the wind into sharp, jagged formations, like the teeth of some great monster.
But the illusion of water only reminded her how very far she was from the clear streams of the Mountain. She turned her attention to the orange sphere which housed her.
It seemed to be made of thick skin, stretched taut over a strong wooden frame. All about her were sacks of spices, piles of soft carpets, and various objects of fine metal, plus a plethora of items she could not identify. But just to her right was a cage with a very frightened looking bird inside. He was rather small and black, with a tuft of brilliant blue on his breast and matching blue rings around his eyes.
He kept tilting his head back and forth as he watched Plip and hopping left and right every few seconds.
“Poor thing. You’re as frightened as I am.”
The bird shrieked in alarm. His feathers puffed out all around his head and breast, forming a great black oval and revealing a larger stripe of bright blue. He shuffled back and forth in a funny little dance. His head seemed to have disappeared entirely.
Plip watched silently, thoroughly impressed but a bit confused, until the dance ended, and the little bird’s feathers settled back into place, revealing his head once more.
“Amazing!” Plip whispered.
The bird hopped backwards, lowered its head towards the floor and tilted its beak up suspiciously. “You did speak!” he cried, in a shrill voice. “Oh, this is terrible. What kind of a demon are you?”
“But you’re talking too,” Plip protested.
“I’m a shangrila bird, of course I can talk.”
“I never knew any birds that could talk,” Plip said.
The shangrila bird ruffled his feathers. “And how many birds have you known?”
“Well, none really.”
“Hmph. I thought as much. Birds are wildly misunderstood by bottom dwellers.”
“That’s what I said. Most of the world is made up of sky. Or do you never bother to look up?”
“I never thought of it that way,” Plip admitted, though she didn’t particularly like the bird’s tone.
“What am I thinking, trying to explain things to a sprite?” The bird straightened his neck.
“Who’s a sprite?”
“You are!” He flapped his wings impatiently.
“I’m not a sprite, I’m a naiad!”
“What’s the difference?”
Plip frowned. “As a matter of fact, I don’t know. What’s a sprite, exactly?”
“They live in the clouds,” the shangrila said. “They’re the ones who make it rain…or not rain, as the case may be.” He began pruning himself absentmindedly.
“They’re not the ones who make rain,” Plip protested. “The naiads and Weather Masters do that.”
“What nonsense are you babbling?”
Plip crossed her arms in irritation. “It isn’t nonsense, and I should think I know more about it than you, anyway.”
“Oh, really? You didn’t even know what a sprite was!” The shangrila crossed his wings comically.
Plip did a quick somersault inside her jar. “Well, I’ve never been inside a cloud.”
“My point exactly.” The shangrila would not look at her.
Curiosity softened Plip’s temper. “So, what is a sprite, exactly? Do they look like me?”
“A great deal…though now that I come to think of it, there are significant differences. You wouldn’t last long in the clouds; you are entirely too solid.”
Plip was beginning to suspect that there was no real ill will behind the shangrila’s insults. “And they don’t talk?”
“Certainly not. They haven’t the capacity for it. They aren’t really sentient, you know.”
“I didn’t know,” Plip said somberly.
“Well,” said the bird in a satisfied tone, “you are young.”
“I wonder if the Weather Masters know about the sprites,” Plip said softly to herself. “Please, Mr. Bird—”
“Mr. Burung, if you please.”
“Please, Mr. Burung, do you know how they make it rain?”
Burung stuck his chest out and cleared his throat. “Ah, well you see, it’s all rather involved and multifaceted and one might even say interdimensional.”
Plip’s eyes grew wide.
“It would take an expert to explain the process thoroughly, which I am not—though I understand why you may think I am. But I do think even the experts would agree that it could all be summed up by the word evaporation.”
“Yes, evaporation is that complicated process by which a cloud sheds its water and rain falls to the earth.”
“And the sprites help with this process?”
“Just so. And it must be quite a messy business, too. For they seem to always be squabbling among themselves.”
“This is all so much more complicated than I ever understood,” Plip sighed.
“As is life,” Burung said with a dramatic sigh, “as is life.”
“I wish Akino were here.”
“Who’s Akino?” Burung asked.
“He’s my friend. He’s clever and brave and used to being on his own.” She sighed again. “Do you know where they’re taking us?”
“Somewhere terrible, I expect.” Burung sunk his head into his shoulders. “The Sand Plains are not known for their spiritual enlightenment. They stopped visiting the White Temple decades ago.”
“What is the White Temple?” Plip asked.
“Bless me,” Burung cawed, “it’s sentient, but it’s a heathen. The White Temple is only the holiest place in all the lands. It is where the physical world and the spirit world connect. All those seeking enlightenment find their way there eventually.”
“Have you been there?”
Burung rocked back and forth in a self-satisfied manner. “Many times. The White Temple is located in the center of the forest which I call home. The White Monks are kind to my people and often choose us as companions for their lifelong journey toward enlightenment.”
“I had no idea!” Plip was duly impressed, even if she didn’t fully understand what it was she was impressed by. “What does enlightenment mean?”
Burung sighed. “Spiritual knowledge and understanding of Maha.”
“What is maha?”
“Maha is the ultimate being, the origin and sustainer of life. The sun rises by his decree.”
“Oh, you mean the Creator!” Plip gasped. “He taught the first naiads to sing and gave the Weather Masters their skill.”
“I suppose so,” Burung looked a little puzzled, “though I have never heard of you or your weather masters.”
Just then a man entered the globe, momentarily blocking out the dazzling sunlight and casting a shadow directly over Burung.
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