A Tale of Opal Flight
Story by Lilia Artis
Once upon a time an angry god caused a huge flood. The giant wave destroyed civilizations, extinguished mythical creatures, and washed off all colour on the surface of the earth. Almost all animal life was diminished and the mythical creatures extinguished – or so it seemed. Only the birds, who managed to roar high up into the sky escaped death in great numbers, but they lost their colour nevertheless and most of their land. The sea life deep down in the ocean rolled with the tide and didn’t notice the brute force of destruction. In fact they were quite happy once they discovered that the water level had risen and they gained beautiful terrain with mysterious builds. Never did they find out who lived there before. But the remnants of old civilizations inspired them to try new ways. Happily they accepted the challenge and reached for this new territory where no fish had ever gone before. They could have lived happily ever after, had it not become more and more obvious that they were missing something very essential. Lacking arms for their ambitious endeavors, the fish rather depended on the help from the merfolk and octopi. Though this was seldom fruitful, as those limbed creatures made themselves available only when it suited them. Understandably, they preferred to pass the day playing with the dolphins. They always were so clever to find excuses. Having no arms caused a huge longing and an immense sadness in fish society, from birth to the moment they sank down into the never ending darkness.
They knew little about yet another sadness and longing high above them. Insects, birds and aquatic animals had come to terms with their suddenly so grey and white lives. And in the giant plants a colony of survivors lead their hidden lives since centuries, mourning the loss of their colour. The fact that they, the harpies, were the only mythological creatures left, didn’t bother them as much as having white feathers. With envy did they watch what they were missing unfold beneath the mistakenly gentle waves of the sea. They wondered how the underwater world had managed to preserve its colour and if eating fish would recolour their feathers. But through watching birds who did live on fish, the harpies realized that this wouldn’t help and their sadness grew even deeper.
Meanwhile the fish developed their own theories, inspired by the murals in the builds of the vanished centaurs. It seemed obvious that these many limbed creatures had a very special connection with the moon. It was in fact all over their place. The fish understood that perfectly well since the moon’s light brought magic to their world too, in a much more gentle way than the burning sun could ever do. While the different fish schools tried to figure out how to get the rays of the moon deeper down towards the ground, one of them suddenly came up with the idea that it was the moon who gifted the centaurs with limbs because every little fish would know you need light to grow things. At first many laughed but after a while more and more fish picked it up as a serious possibility and soon the wisest built a waterproof theory off of what at first had been no more than a silly idea. Soon it was commonly known that the rays of the moon would make limbs grow on the fish. But how to get the precious light down into their realm? An octopus pointed out that if the moon would be brighter, as bright as the pearlescent shine of a fish egg, then its rays would reach farther. There was some logic in it, the fish thought, and it didn’t take long until one of them came up with the suggestion of covering the moon with fish eggs. The more they debated the better this idea seemed. The remaining question was how to get the eggs to the moon. Once more the solution was presented by an octopus together with the offer to talk to the harpies. He knew the harpies could fly up higher into the sky than any bird.
A few, or more, discussions later the case was settled. On the back of a dolphin an octopus traveled to the shore and tried to catch the attention of the harpies. It took him three days to finally find them, the harpies really knew how to hide themselves. And they didn’t trust anyone who wasn’t of their own kind. But finally the octopus was able to deliver his story and plea. To put it mildly, the harpies were quite surprised by this offer. But the implications became immediately clear to them and they readily agreed. The deal was settled and the octopus happily waved to the harpies when he set off towards the ocean ground. He didn’t notice the mischievous gleam in their eyes.
Month after month passed by with fishes carrying loads of eggs to the surface in carts the talented octopus family had constructed for them. But something had gone awry. The moon did not increase its brilliance no matter how great the offerings provided by the fish, and reportedly delivered to the moon by the winged harpies. With ever growing suspicion, clandestine octopus inquisitors started to ride dolphins to the surface of the water to find the reason for the moon’s reluctance. Why hadn’t the moon reciprocated more light after receiving an ongoing accumulation of bright shiny fish eggs? Was that not the rich translucent color the moon would desire in exchange for giving the fish more light at night, and proper high tides? In the depths, the question arose: Had the Harpies been successful in their deliveries to the moon? It wasn’t long before an octopus found out the bitter truth. With dismay he watched the harpies having a feast. They didn’t even care as much as to hide while eating the fish eggs, so huge was their greed. With a heavy heart the octopus returned to the ocean ground.
There was an incredible uproar in the water world when the truth was revealed to the fish. Their fury about this betrayal was so immense that they called the whales for help to take revenge. But the old wise giants reminded them that by killing the harpies they would also do harm to themselves because no creature would be left that could endeavor the risky voyage to the moon. Debating their options with a calmer head, the fish soon realized that the whales were right. And once again an octopus was sent to the harpies, this time with an accusation and a message of threat. Were the harpies not to fulfil their part of the treaty, the whales would cause a giant wave to wash away what was left above sea level. At first they didn’t feel terribly guilty, after all the fish had been dumb enough to trust a stranger. What did they owe them anyway and weren’t they the ones who needed help? With a quivering beak they told the octopus of their past, how beautiful they once used to be and that they were hoping that feeding on the colour saturated fish eggs they might regain what was lost and become once again as colourful as the fish. The more the harpies talked about it the more they got wrapped up in emotions. The octopus saw the despair and longing in their eyes and sighed. He realized it was an echo of the fish’ desire and it struck him that both parties would do better if they stopped craving what they couldn’t get and instead played with the dolphins. But he decided to not mention it because he was wise enough to know that none of them, neither fish nor harpy, would ever follow his advice. Not after centuries of craving and despair. He allowed himself another sigh and then came up with a suggestion: If the harpies were to help the fish, he would have time to look for a solution to help the harpies in return. His mind was already wrapping around different tests involving his ink and their feathers. Before the harpies had time to even think about the offer, the eldest of the whales hit his tail onto the surface of the ocean and sprayed water onto the shore to gain everyone’s attention. With a voice that resonated even into the farthest corner of the deepest water he claimed it was not right to eat all the eggs that the fish sacrificed for their cause. Instead the harpies should pull the moon down towards the earth to increase its shine. As a reward they should get half of the amount of the eggs to help their own cause. Everybody stared at him with wide open eyes. Pull the moon down? But yes, he was right!
Another treaty was settled and the harpies set off towards the sky, their hearts filled with dedication to really earn their treat this time. With all the force they could summon, they dug their claws deep into the moon and flapping their wings with all the force they could muster, they flew towards the earth, dragging the shiny source of yearning behind. It was a very slow journey and it turned out to be a tad more difficult than anticipated. The moon wouldn’t yield long to the new road it was forced into. Once the harpies let go, it would slowly start to recede again. So they had to repeat their effort monthly. As they needed time to recover from the huge strain, periods of darkness took turns with periods of a bright night sky and its magic light filled every single creature with an unknown happiness as long as it lasted. Of course for the fish and the harpies that was sometimes followed by times of doubt and even resignation to some extent, because it never seemed that all the effort would get them what they most desired. But they kept going because deep down in their hearts they always knew, the light would come again and with it the hope they needed more than everything else.