Disclamer: Mediaworld's is Mediaworld's, mine is mine, and this is a non-profit story so don't send money.

Stormy says: I didn't realize how short this story was... Or how weird. This story is very weird.

Tiara's Choice 4

"Asta! Marina!"
"Yes mama?"
"Yes mama?"
The twin princesses of Oceanna looked up from their work, Marina playing on a round-bellied flute and Asta drawing with special pencils that worked underwater. Their faces were narrow and fairylike and their hair flowed around them, identical manes of brown curls.
Tiara stopped to smile. "If you aren't busy I will take you to the temple of the crystals now. You will be seventeen soon; it is about time."
Before she finished speaking the two girls had abandoned their activities and joined her at the door.
"At last."
"Let's go."
Tiara led the way and her daughters followed, swimming leisurely so they wouldn't pass their mother. The generation born after the earthquake were all stronger swimmers than their parents. They left the palace and went beyond the bay, to the shadowy deeps where few people came.
"Through here." Tiara ducked through a screen of dark seaweed. She paused inside, waiting for her eyes to adjust.
"It's dark." Asta said. "Oh! Look!" A school of blue-glowing fish swarmed around them.
"They show us the way."
The tiny fish held them in a sphere of moving lights that guided them down a long channel and out into the darkest part of the lower sea. In front of them was a round plain of sand, and across it, the temple. The temple was made of stems of silvery coral growing in the shape of a fish's head. The sacred whale sang greeting from above.
Marina flitted across to the temple. Asta and Tiara followed.
Inside was one room, empty except for the three crystals. They were held in a setting meant to hold four, and over the empty space crazed lightning leaped.
"Is that where the crystal Galiel stole was?"
"It looks unbalanced." Marina commented.
"It is. Don't touch it! The crystals are used to passing power between four, and if anything gets in that space, they'll treat it like another crystal."
"Zap? Like being close to a lightning strike?"
"Yes. And the three crystals would disappear to other hiding places."
Asta cocked her head, trying to understand. "That's... in case someone else tries to steal them?"
"We didn't set it up. The crystals decided it if anyone did." Tiara hung in the water next to the crystals. It was warm, the light was like warm sunlight.
"Feels like magic." Marina drifted close, "Are they alive?"
"Maybe. No one really knows." Tiara thought she heard something. She turned. No one there. The back of the cave was shadowed.
"Can you use their power, mama?"
"Only when I need to. Come closer, you can touch the stand down here. That will have to be enough for them to meet you."
The two girls flitted down and laid their hands on the silver coral that held the crystals.
"Oh!" Marina gasped.
"They like us!"
Tiara smiled, "I'm glad."
Asta added more, "They... know us already? Because Mandrool knows us? And you know us?"
"Yes." And Tiara added a whisper of thanks to the sacred whale.
She felt movement in the water and turned to look.
Eyes reflected the crystal light.
A voice whispered, "Tiara?"
The queen put herself in front of the crystals and her daughters. "Who's there?"
He moved into the light and Tiara gasped. Galiel had always been lean; now he was almost skeletal. His long hair swirled around a painfully gaunt face and two feverish violet eyes.
Tiara said over her shoulder, "Asta, Marina, go home and tell your father Galiel is here."
"Galiel?" Marina gasped out.
Asta grabbed her sister's hand and fled, calling back, "What will you do, mama?"
Tiara didn't know. Her daughters were gone before she could have answered, anyway. Then she faced the strange figure that had once been her friend. "Galiel."
"You came back."
"They are... your children?"
"Yes." Tiara waited, "Why did you come back?"
"I need the other crystals, Tiara. The one I have will run out of energy in time."
"You really did steal it so you could live forever. I knew that but I couldn't believe it." Of course, of course. Galiel looked starved, but his face was young and there was no silver in his long hair. She wondered if being young was worth looking the way he did.
Galiel followed her thought, or else was just ashamed of his appearance in front of someone he had cared about. "My crystal's power is all I need to eat, but it is far away from here. That's why I look this way."
"You truly can use the crystal's power to stay young and healthy?"
"With all four crystals we could both live forever. I came to ask you to come with me."
"No. I'm Queen of Oceanna, I can't let you take the crystals. And I can't go with you."
Galiel looked at her, a burning look full of mad energy. "I won't kidnap you, but I need the crystals. You can't stop me."
It was true, she couldn't. Not by physical strength, and she had no weapon. "Please, don't. You can return to Oceanna in peace if you bring the fourth crystal back."
"And live an outcast until I die? No. Please come with me Tiara. I love you. We could see the stars together."
Tiara's eyes flickered to the arch of killing power where the fourth crystal should have been. White hot like a thousand galaxies melted together, like the times she and her family went out at night to lie on blankets on the hillside above the palace. She knew what she had to do. "I've already seen the stars."
"I'm sorry. I'm weak, I can't think of any other way. To protect Oceanna. From you. Goodbye." She threw herself into the arch of power. The light of the crystals flowed through her, warm, then hot, then burning.
Galiel screamed, "TIARA!"
Mandrool's voice whispered, Thank you...
One of the crystals vanished.
...you will be remembered...
The second crystal was gone.
...through the time of the promised one...
The last crystal vanished, taking all the light with it.