Chapter V: Beached
Sol Palus struggled through the last waves. The retreating water washed away the sand under his hooves causing him to stagger slightly. He grunted heavily then willed himself through the last bit of water and onto the sandy beach. Raven drooped forward barely conscious of her surroundings. The stallion collapsed just above the water break and rolled onto his side spent from his struggle.
Raven tumbled onto the sandy beach a short distance away from him. She pulled herself up on all fours and promptly emptied the contents of her stomach into the sand. Her mouth was filled with a salty brine. She must have swallowed half of the Pacific Ocean. Taking a deep breath she leaned back on her knees and tried to assess the situation.
The wind was blowing off shore, the rain had stopped and light gray clouds were whipping out to sea overhead. She turned and crawled back to her mount who still lay crumpled on the beach.
"Thank you," she said softly into Sol Palus' ear as she wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed him with all her remaining strength. His only response was a feeble grunt. Somehow they had managed to pull themselves from the raging ocean. Guilt filled Raven's heart. It was her pride that had put them in that situation.
Raven looked out into the grey waters of the frothy sea. She froze in terror as she saw the storm goddess skimming the turbulent waters quickly making her way towards them.
"Come on get up," Raven urged her mount. They had to try and get away before Tempest seized them. She reached around Sol Palus' neck and tried to pull him to his feet. It was useless. Her Nightmare was spent. Raven fell to her knees and squeezed her stallion's neck tightly trying to gather her courage. Without her powers and her mount drained from his struggles they would be at the mercy of the storm goddess. Raven closed her eyes and awaited her fate.
"I believe this is yours," a girlish voice softly said above the drone of the waves and winds.
Raven opened her eyes and turned towards Tempest. The goddess stood next to her with her left hand extended. Her eyes were unexpectedly tired and her body drooped wearily. A black slithering form withered in her hand.
"Go ahead take it," the goddess instructed.
Raven tentatively reached out half expecting the goddess to strike her down. To her surprise she gently released her hold on Raven's powers allowing it to creep down her arm and reestablish itself.
"Why?" Raven asked in astonishment surprised by the godess' mercy.
Tempest smiled down to her and let out a girlish laugh. "That's always the ultimate question for your kind isn't it?" she cryptically replied.
"Huh?" was all Raven could offer.
"You're always seeking answers," Tempest countered. "When will your kind realize there isn't always an answer to your questions?" The goddess shook her head in disappointment. "Many curse my existence, but I am not inherently evil. Only the foolish think that. The storm just is."
Raven looked up into the goddess' tired eyes unsure what to expect next.
"I am spent," Tempest said wearily to her. "It is time for me to depart and sleep." She reached down and gently ran her fingers underneath Raven's chin. Both girls looked into each other's eyes trying to gauge the other's thoughts.
Tempest lowered her hand and smiled one last time at Raven. "Vale Atra Regina (I bid you farewell Dark Queen)." She turned and skated out along the grey frothy waters, skimming over the waves until she disappeared behind the winds leaving Raven crouched next to her spent mount wondering what the goddess' final words meant.