Book 3 Chapter 39

Walking through the halls of the Tu Family home for the first time, Lucci soon discovered why NaDo called it the “Shellab.” That’s exactly what it was. The whole structure was actually built inside of the hollowed-out heart of a giant shell. The walls sloped and spiraled, shimmering along with the blush of pale coral that sent rainbows scattering as he turned his head. The doorways and windows were carved, often covered with shining curtains that swayed back and forth with the distant ocean breeze.

At least, I think that’s where the wind is coming from.

Maru told him all about the great ocean that lay just on the other side of the forest. How the shell that they lived in was once the house for some vast, ancient creature that walked the ocean floor. What it looked like, Lucci didn’t know, but the whole idea of giant creatures living in giant sea-lakes left him excited and curious.

NaDo said that he’d take me to see it soon. I can’t wait!

Lucci’s silver eyes shimmered as he turned the corner, following Maru’s calm and sure step. There sat the dining table, decorated with all sorts of wonderful smelling food. The table and chairs were made from the same sort of shell material, carved by a steady hand into their current form. Designs of shell-shapes and sea stars were drawn into the smooth white surface, obviously a labor of great art and love.

The meal was also an artistic wonder. Plates of colorful flat and curled meats lay upon large gold-green tropical leaves, sprinkled with strange colorful fruits and slim grey-shells.

“Hey, Lucci! So you finally got up!” NaDo exclaimed from the other room, which looked to be the kitchen. He stuck his head out, dressed in a white apron, his face powdered with spots of cooking dough and grease. “Good thing. KiNa was about to eat it all!”

Lucci peered over at where the young winged child already sat, in some sort of raised-up chair made to help him reach the table. The little boy was helping himself to the food, and now building a little wall out of the plate of grey-shells that someone left too.

“You just take a seat,” Maru told him, leading him to the table. “I’ll get the drinks.”

Excited, Lucci sat down as she strode towards the kitchen. Along the way, she brushed a hand through her son’s wild white hair and gently chided him to behave. KiNa simply gave a big, winning smile and continued to pile more grey-shells on his plate.

After a short time, Lucci spoke to the little boy, curiously, “What are you making?”

The winged child paused in his construction, peering quizzically over the top at the silver-haired youth. Then he proclaimed, grandiosely, “I’m making Shellab 2.0!”

“Oh?” Lucci intoned with interest. It didn’t really look like the Shellab, but he thought it was probably polite not to inform the little boy of this.

“What a superb Shellab it is, too, KiNa,” NaDo grinned as he brought a big bowl of steaming soup and placed it on the table. “The boy is going to be a great maker one day! Just like his father!”

“Like his mother,” Maru corrected, putting the drinks down on the table with a glance over her face decoration.

A clattering sound rang out through the room as one misplaced grey-shell caused the child’s creation to topple and scatter across the table in pieces. KiNa stared at it with wide eyes, echoing a tone of voice that he must have heard many times in the past, “Oops?”

“You’re right. Like his father,” Maru retracted with a sweet smile, reaching over and picking up some of the wayward shells.

“Nah! Nah!” NaDo gave a quipping laugh and put his arm around her, “Just like US.”

She teased him, wiggling a shell in his face before shrugging out of his embrace and finally sitting at the table.

Then it was time to eat. Plates passed, Maru dishing a little bit of everything for Lucci, telling him to test things and discover what he liked best. She added with a warm smile, “NaDo might be a little shaky at some things, but he is a fairly good cook.”

Eating supper with the Tu Family was both a joy and an adventure. Lucci took the plate with relish and began to dig into everything. He found a lot of strange tastes and textures, was surprised when some things still came with legs or tails attached, and tackled the trial of cracking open the grey-shells to find the meat hidden within.

As they ate, NaDo excitedly ran over the headlines for the day – updates on his studies, the new and unusual sort of sea-creature he thought he found, what he would name his discovery, the things swept up on shore after the storms of last week — the list of strange and interesting things he brought to the table was endless. All the while, KiNa made a mess of himself while his parents sat rapt, discussing things together.

Lucci smiled. There was warmth in the room, and it didn’t all come from the meal.

After a while, NaDo leaned back, pushing away a finished plate. He arched one eyebrow at where Lucci sat, observing with a hint of a smile, “Someone must have really liked my cooking.”

Embarrassed, the youth looked around him at finished bowls and trays of missing food. While listening to the stories and interesting things, Lucci didn’t realized how hungry he really was.

“It’s okay,” Maru smiled, too. “Food is made for eating. I’d rather see you enjoy it than let it go to waste.”

“It was very good,” Lucci rubbed his head with a sheepish look.

“See! Now don’t you think I could make millions if I took this back to the Inner Realms! Tell me the truth, Lucci,” NaDo gave a toothy grin.

His wife threw a napkin in his face with a huff.

KiNa thought it was the most hilarious thing he saw all day and broke into a round of giggling quips. That’s when his mother noticed the mess that he made.

“Excuse me, but I’ve got to clean up your son,” Maru got up with a wrinkled nose.

“MY son? Why is he always my son when he’s messy?”

“Take a guess,” she grinned, going back to the kitchen with finished plates in hand.

“Ahhh, women,” the winged man sighed and shrugged over at silver-haired youth. Then he leaned forward with a teasing look. “Do you have a girl back home, Lucci?”

“Well,” Lucci paused. His mind drifted back to Suzume for a moment. He realized it was the first time in too long that he thought about her.

I wonder if she’s okay… If she’s worried because I ran away?

NaDo sat quietly, hands propping up his chin, waiting for the answer.

“I have a friend who is really special to me. But I haven’t seen her in a long time. Not since they Migrated the people off the Islands,” the youth glanced up.

“Yes, I heard about that,” the scientist’s face grew uncharacteristically serious. “I know things are rough right now in the Inner Realms. We haven’t heard from them for longer than I’d like. I’ve been checking with the teams in the Spiral every week.”

“Oh?” Lucci’s tone was surprised. “There are people like you in the Spiral?”

“That’s right,” Maru came back in with a damp cloth. She captured her son’s messy hands and began to clean them. “Once the Spiral opened to us, we sent teams of researchers in to that area. Partly to try and find a way to reverse the neural chips embedded in the people. Other partly because of the Creature that was discovered there on the first expedition in.”

Does she mean Aur?

“We’ve been out here at the Shellab for a good while longer. So we transport materials and information — that sort of thing — to the teams in the Spiral. It’s where we get most of our news,” NaDo frowned. “But with the battles going on, news hasn’t come. What I’ve heard from Lord Zemi has been pretty scarce as well.”

“You can talk to Lord Zemi from out here?” Lucci asked.

“Sometimes. Though it seems difficult for him,” NaDo answered, leaning back in his chair. “He did tell us that you were coming out this way, and to keep an eye out for you. That’s how I took a good guess at who you were when I found you on the beach.”

The youth felt himself stiffen, a rush of fear flash through his body. Before he knew what he was saying, sounds spilled out of his mouth, “Then you do know what I am?”

“What you are?” Maru echoed with an arch of her eyebrows.

“Uh… I…” Lucci found himself at a loss for what to say, backed into a corner by his own words. He stared at the family who stared back at him, his throat tightening.

They’ve been so nice to me, but if they knew that I was the Bane, would they hate me like all the other winged people?

“Lucci?” NaDo encouraged with a soft voice.

They deserve the truth, after all they’ve given me. I shouldn’t lie to them. Not about something like this.

Before he could say anything more, Maru offered, “We know you’re a Sygnus, yes.”

The youth sat back in his chair, napkin falling from his hand. He peered at them from behind the curtain of silver hair, face frightened. “I’m the Sygnus… I’m the… Bane…”

“Ah?” NaDo replied, as if being informed of something that didn’t quite convince him.

“You don’t believe me,” Lucci swallowed, sweaty palms gripping the arms of his chair tighter and tighter. The last thing he wanted to do was try to persuade these kind people that he was their future destroyer and bringer of all that was evil.

“We’ve heard this Bane talk,” NaDo answered, tilting his head. Then he waved one hand through the air in a wide gesture. “But, there’s no proof that the Bane really exists, much less that you are the Bane. Until there’s empirical proof, it’s all a hypothesis.”

Lucci didn’t know exactly what that meant. Though it was difficult for him to take his eyes from the plate, when he did, he could tell that the way that they watched him hadn’t changed. Not one bit.

“You don’t think I’m the Bane?” the youth asked. The same question, but a different way.

“I can’t answer that one way or another, Lucci,” the winged man answered. “All I know is what I’ve seen. Until something proves different, I’ll believe that.”

Lucci sat there, head down in shame. Something curdled in the pit of his stomach, sending a sour taste up his throat into his mouth. It was all he could do to keep his hands from shaking where they remained gripping the arms of his chair. His secret was out, even if they knew it before he told them. It was still very hard to face them.

Much to his shock and surprise, Maru suddenly got up, walking over to him and wrapping her arms around his head. “Poor, poor boy. Who has filled your heart with so much worry? You carry the fear of the Bane with you all of the time, don’t you?”

The youth nodded, feeling tears rising in his eyes. Lucci never cried about it before. He promised himself that he wouldn’t, no matter what people said to him. No matter how cruel people were. No matter how much they hated him. Because they had a reason to hate him — he was the Sygnus. He was fated to take everything from them, to destroy all that they loved. And all that he loved as well.

I deserve their bitterness.

As Maru stroked her fingers through his hair, offering soft, reassuring words, the tingle of her mind magery worked to soothe his pain. He couldn’t hold back the anguish any longer. It rushed out of him with a huge sob, his long, lanky arms clinging around the tiny winged woman.

He found himself telling everything, about how much he wanted the people of Ceiswyr to not hate him. How afraid he was that Zeromus, the one that everyone said was his father, would overcome the Islands with his hatred and Chaos. And most of all, how terrifying it was that he was predestined to become everything that he hated.

“I wish I had never been born!” he finally sobbed, hiding his face in her shoulder.

“Lucci,” NaDo’s voice was there. “Don’t say that.”

“It’s true!” the youth sniveled. “If all I’m going to do is hurt other people, I wish I wasn’t here.”

Maru glanced up at her husband with an appealing look. Then she took Lucci’s face between her hands. “Lucci, I want you to listen to me. Please?”

The direct tone of the mind mage silenced him, though he continued to fight back tears that threatened to come. Once released, it was hard to stop.

“You’re not hurting anyone right now, are you?” she asked him with a calm look.

He shook his head.

“That’s right. None of this has happened. No matter what people tell you, nothing in life is ever set in stone,” Maru wiped his face with a napkin.

“We know that you’re here to find a way to stop Zeromus,” NaDo added with a nod.

Lucci’s eyes flicked up in surprise.

“We want to help you do that,” the winged man added.

“You do?” the youth croaked hoarsely.

“Yes. I don’t know how much our information can do, but, if you’ll allow us, I think that we can offer you a little bit of direction,” NaDo’s slight smile returned, seeing he had positive attention.

“Are… you sure… you want to… help a Sygnus?” Lucci swallowed, staring at them incredulously.

“Yes. NaDo and I have already talked about it. A lot,” Maru answered, wiping his face again. “We know what we’re getting into, but we want to help you.”

“Thank… you…” were the only words he managed to squeak.