Delilah spent a long time with her hand placed against the White Whale’s smooth, cool skin. She couldn’t just hear the White Whale’s song, she could feel it. Ripples passed beneath her hand, different patterns and vibrations. And in that sensation, Delilah began to understand the White Whale even more.
She didn’t just communicate through sound, but through touch, as well. It was a marvelous and fascinating discovery, for there was no language like this that Delilah had even heard of. Listening to the White Whale’s song only gave her part of the picture. It was in combining those two – sound and touch – that Delilah began to understand the fullness of the White Whale’s language, and what she was trying to communicate.
But what I don’t understand is why Caleb and Doctor couldn’t understand her at all. I wish I’d been able to talk with them more – well, at least Caleb – but I was so frustrated and worked up that I couldn’t come at this calmly.
Now Caleb’s gone, and he probably isn’t coming back. He has a battle to fight.
And Doctor left, though… I’m not sure why.
Most likely he’s off to bring others here to try and stop me from freeing the White Whale.
But I won’t be stopped. I’m going to save you.
How can I not, now that I understand you?
Alice had asked Delilah why she wanted to help the White Whale, and Delilah hadn’t had an answer for her. The creature was in need of help, and Delilah was able to understand that. To help someone in need…
Why would anyone need a reason for that?
Even as Delilah listened and felt for the White Whale’s language, she couldn’t effectively or precisely translate it. It was, in a way, like how her Summons “spoke” to her. None of them used words, but instead conveyed simple, and sometimes surprisingly complex, messages to her through…
Well, Delilah didn’t really know what to call them. Feelings? Impressions?
What should she call a language without words?
She’d struggled over that question ever since she’d called her first Summon into being.
But now’s not the time for worrying about terminology.
Delilah opened her eyes – she hadn’t realized she’d closed them – and sat back, looking around. The White Whale’s prison certainly was a beautiful place. It didn’t seem much like a prison at first glance. The mist that hung in the air, swirling around everything, made Delilah want to smile. It was like the sky had come down to meet her, and she was sitting in the clouds. The white light and white surfaces of things also lent things a calming, cheerful feeling.
Or they did, at first.
But Delilah started to see a different perspective to that. The stark lack of color – there was only white, with some grey of the towers – also gave off a different feeling, a feeling that turned Delilah’s stomach.
A feeling of sterility.
This wasn’t a place that brought life into being, or even one that nurtured life. It was a place that was scrubbed clean of life, of color, of emotion.
Delilah knew that the towers – the posts – keeping the White Whale anchored here worked as miraculous healing chambers.
But that healing…
I’m glad it healed Caleb. But it comes at too great a cost.
She stroked her hand along the White Whale’s skin, listening to and feeling her song.
You never hold yourself back. You wouldn’t even if you weren’t trapped here. You’re kind, and gentle, and gracious.
But every time those posts are used to heal, you suffer. This isn’t how your magic is supposed to be used. And this isn’t where you belong.
The White Whale’s song took a strange turn, moving from one of sorrow and pain to one tinged with hope and joy.
“You can hear my thoughts,” Delilah murmured, staring. “Or… no, that’s not it. You can feel them. You can understand me through touch, just like I can understand you. And when I speak and touch you…” The White Whale’s song changed slightly again, and Delilah smiled, her heart lifting. “You understand me even better. I see. And in all this time…”
“You’ve been so lonely. For the one you love, and also for any form of companionship. And you…”
Delilah stopped, feeling a strange tug in her chest. It was familiar, similar to the White Whale’s song, so she let go of her hesitation and gave in to it.
She was pulled into another place, another time.
At first she didn’t understand, looking out over a wide open field, and beyond it a quaint, hilly town sparsely laid with homes and farms. But the sea breeze gave her a clue, and as she turned around…
She looked out at Grimson Bay.
It’s Grimoire. Grimoire… how many years ago? Decades? Centuries?
She looked back towards the city.
This isn’t long after its founding. Crater District doesn’t even exist yet, and neither does the University. But even this far back…
She looked out towards the Bay.
Even this far back, the Bay is still ruins. Whatever once existed here – whatever majestic towers filled the sky, whatever wondrous castles looked out upon the glittering sea – crumbled away long ago.
It doesn’t even look all that different from the present day. The Gate is just as I remember it, and the different islands made of fallen rock are all in familiar patterns.
“We can’t go on like this,” a voice said. Delilah turned, and saw a man and a woman standing beside her. They weren’t looking at her, but out across the Bay. Their hands were intertwined, and Delilah spied a wedding band on the woman’s left hand. It was the man who’d spoken, and he continued: “But… I fear the Council’s decision is our only choice.”
“It’s unthinkable,” the woman said. “We can’t bring the White Whale back. We set her free for a reason. We can’t shackle her here. We didn’t understand her powers and purpose before, but we do now. If we call her back, we have no excuse.”
“But the Doomed Beast –” the man started.
“Will not come for centuries yet,” the woman said. “There is still time.”
“They won’t listen to us,” the man said. “We… we did the right thing, back then. But now that they’re afraid, they hate us for it.”
“Fear turns men’s hearts to evil faster than any other influence,” the woman said. “We can’t give into them. We have to protect her.”
“It may cost us greatly,” the man said.
The woman nodded, squeezing her husband’s hand gently. “We can change their minds. We can save them from their fear.”
The landscape swirled around Delilah, and suddenly she was standing in a dark cavern before a silver door. The door stood ajar, but was suddenly closed tight. Men and women – twelve in all – were gathered around the door. All had grim looks in their eyes. Some were fighting back tears.
“Did we…” a man with greying hair and half-moon spectacles started, “did we do the right thing?”
“We did the only thing,” a younger, broad-shouldered man said quickly. His narrow eyes were fierce. “Grimoire would die otherwise.”
“Grimoire is already dying,” a woman said. Her auburn hair was tied tightly back, and her angular face matched a severe gaze. “The Doomed Beast is nothing. Her powers are our only hope.”
“But we…” a young woman said, staring at her feet, wringing her hands. She had a soft, kind face, and her cheeks were marked with tracks from tears. “We… we swore we would never do harm to one another. And yet now…”
“Now the Alisters are dead,” the man with the fierce stare said. “By our hand. We can mourn them – perhaps we should. But we must not lose ourselves in guilt. They would have let Grimoire die without a second thought. As long as it happened to future generations, why should they care?”
“You know not of what you speak,” a balding man with a scar across his left eye said in a gravelly voice. “Their motivations were purer than that. They were simply held captive by their ideals, by a false sense of righteousness. They endeavored to do what was right. They simply couldn’t see what we saw.”
“As long as we can keep Grimoire alive,” the elderly man with the half-moon spectacles said, pushing up his glasses. “That is more important than anything.”
The man with the fierce stare nodded. “If Grimoire dies, the Bastion dies. We can never let that happen.”
“The Dominion keeps us safe, though,” the kind-looking young woman said. “They have enough Bastions, and the Lord of Night’s forces must break through those before he can ever have a chance of harming Earth.”
“There are other ways –” the severe-looking woman started.
“What’s done is done,” the scarred man said. “If we truly wished to debate, we could have done so before we took action. In fact we did. Continuing on like this is pointless.” He held out his hand to the fierce-looking man, who laid a key in his palm. “I will pass on the key to Earth’s Paladin. This place is tied to our Bastion, after all – he is the one who should keep it.”
“He won’t like this,” the kind-looking woman said.
“He won’t be able to do anything about it,” the scarred man said. “He isn’t a Summoner.”
The vision swirled once more, and Delilah found herself in a dark, starry void.
Or was this…
Delilah spun slowly, so slowly that she didn’t realize she was moving at first. Soon she realized she wasn’t the one who was moving – the place she was in was moving. For she realized, as she looked around, that she wasn’t in the void. Above her was an expansive glass dome that looked out into space, but around her was a room with gleaming silver walls and floors. She looked up again, and gasped.
I’m looking at Earth from outer space. Am I on a space station? Or is this…
Delilah looked around the spacious dome once more. She saw them, then, lanterns that she would recognize anywhere. They were tethered to silver string, and floated in the air, spherical, gleaming, beautiful.
Lunar lanterns. Just like the ones we put out all over Grimoire every year for the Lunar Festival.
There’s no way.
Am I really…?
“What have they done?”
The voice was soft, and it was the first indication that Delilah wasn’t alone. She looked, and in the center of the dome was a figure cloaked in silvery-white, a hood drawn up over their head. Their back was to Delilah, so she couldn’t tell who they were, or any defining features about them. But the voice…
“Some sacrifices must not be made.”
It was a man’s voice, Delilah realized, as he spoke louder this time.
“And yet… I can do nothing to set it right. I am powerless. Never did I think my dearest friends would become my enemies.”
Something about his voice… it’s so familiar. But why?
“All I can do is hope. Hope that one day, someone will come along who can set her free.”
Delilah looked up as forms danced in the space between the dome and the Earth far beyond. The forms came into clearer view, though they remained transparent, and she realized…
That’s the White Whale. And the Doomed Beast. They’re free. And they’re…
This is where they belong. This is what’s supposed to happen.
I have to save her. And him. I have to save them both, reunite them, and set them free.
“Farewell, little one,” the man said. Delilah looked around the room.
There was no one but her and the man.
“I hope your heart is kinder than theirs. I hope you can make the right choice, the one that they could not.
The space swirled and warped, until it vanished completely.
Delilah was back in the White Whale’s prison, atop the White Whale herself. But a strange cold sensation against her neck made her pause. She felt with her hands, and found around her neck…
A thin silver chain, tucked into her shirt.
She pulled the chain out, and on the end was…
A key. It was pearly white, attached to the chain with a silver crescent moon-shaped fixture. The key end was curved and elegant, like nothing Delilah had ever seen.
This is the key that the fierce man gave to the scarred man in that vision.
“Hey!” shouted a voice from above. Delilah dropped the key back beneath her shirt and looked up to see Alice, as well as…
She’s not Duo anymore.
Delilah had to remind herself of that every time she laid eyes on the girl, had to make that truth clear in her mind to fight the spike of fear that pierced her heart.
“You found out something awesome, didn’t you?” Alice asked. She leaped over the edge, landing lightly beside Delilah. “Come on, tell me, tell me. I wanna know!”
“Don’t be rude!” Adelaide said, jumping down after her. Her landing was much less graceful, and she tumbled onto her butt, rolling to the side and stumbling to her feet. “But, um, I wanna know, too.”
“I think…” Delilah started, looking down at the White Whale, “she let me see the past.”
“You can time travel?” Alice asked, eyes going wide. “No way! Way cool! Hey, hold on a minute! How come she never let me time travel?”
“Well, it’s not exactly traveling, but…” Delilah started.
A slight shift to the White Whale’s song made her and Alice pause. Delilah struggled to hold back a laugh, while Alice glared down at the creature beneath her feet.
“Hey! I thought we were friends, you!” Alice said, pursing her lips.
“I guess not,” Delilah said, suppressing a smile.
“You’d have friends if you weren’t a jerk,” Adelaide chimed in.
Alice folded her arms over her chest and pouted. “I want to time travel.”
“I didn’t travel,” Delilah reiterated. “I just saw the past, and only in glimpses. I didn’t actually go –”
She stopped herself.
That last vision… that man talked to me, didn’t he? And there’s this key…
Did I actually time travel? Or, well… maybe that wasn’t the past?
No. Don’t get caught up in that. Grab onto the most important part.
“She needs Summoners,” Delilah said, running her hand along the White Whale’s skin. “They’re the only ones who can save her. They’re the only ones who can understand her. But…” She looked up at Alice, whose pout had turned into a sly smile. “Why? I don’t understand why Summoners are so important.” She gasped, staring down at the massive creature beneath her feet. “Unless…”
“Now you’re getting it,” Alice said. “Pretty wild, right?”
Delilah had to agree.
The White Whale…
Is a Summon.