It was a month after the birthday party. Shamino was walking along the
outskirts of New Skara Brae, with Ariana by his side. The rebuilding efforts
had been going well over the years. With a bit of hard work and thankfully
mild seasons, the island was once again covered in green grasses and young
trees. With the first signs of spring emerging, he thought about how much
better the island will look since the previous year. The buds just starting
to form on the branches promised a season full of life.
As they walked along the southern part of town a man stepped out of his brightly painted wagon. People from all over Britannia had come to resettle Skara Brae, including a few gypsies. At least, those who were not scared by the rumors of the island being haunted. The man yawned and stretched in the morning light, then noticed the pair and waved a hello. Shamino waved back and greeted the man. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ariana wave, but it seemed more out of reflex than a real greeting.
"You seem to have a lot on your mind these days," he asked her.
Ariana blinked and glanced over towards him as she realized someone was talking directly to her. "What? Oh… yes. Quite a lot." She turned her head forward again to watch where they were going, and yet not really watching.
"Mm hmm. You’ve been rather quiet since getting back from that trip with your mother. Your help out here the past couple days has been appreciated, but your heart doesn’t seem to be in it. Actually, getting down in the mud to help the crops doesn’t seem like you in the first place."
Ariana sighed and shrugged. "I… I’ve never really done stuff like this. I’ve never really gone out to help others. I just… needed a change. I knew I couldn’t sort myself out at home."
"Yes," Shamino said softly, "sometimes a change can help one to sort things out. But I get the feeling you’ve been doing a lot thinking and not much sorting." He looked at the young lady he was eye-level with. "Was it something in the Codex that brought on this contemplative mood?"
Arian snapped her head towards Shamino. "How’d you know I… Oh, of course, mother told you. I guess it wasn’t really a secret."
"No, but apparently whatever you saw there was, since she admitted you hadn’t told her either."
"I suppose she told you why we went there in the first place."
"Actually, she didn’t. I think she felt it better for you to talk about it when you felt ready. She also said you requested to be dropped off here on the way back, and I think it was for more than to get dirty and try to unscramble your brains"
"You’re a ranger. Well, since you’re also a Companion you’re sort of the ranger. That makes you the local expert on spirituality."
Shamino chuckled, "that’s the theory."
Arian stopped walking and Shamino followed suit. She took a breath and looked into the sky. "The reason I wanted to see the Codex was because I wanted to find a way to talk to my father just once. To just see him, tell him he has a daughter."
Shamino rubbed his chin. "That’s quite an undertaking. I know sometimes it can be very difficult to talk to the spirits, and we’re not entirely sure exactly what happened to your father. I guess none of us thought about doing what you wanted because we didn’t want to hear it couldn’t be done. It was just easier to accept he had ascended to wherever he is needed next." He paused for a moment and took a breath. "Did you see what you wanted?"
Ariana shook her head. "Not even close. You’ve been on quests with him before. What sort of answers did it give then?"
"Hmm… that’s a tough one." Shamino started them walking at a slow pace. "It’s not really a question of what kinds of ‘answers’ it would give. By its nature, the Codex would show the person viewing it what he," he glanced at Ariana, "or she, needed to see. And rarely was it a clear cut statement on the page, sometimes we had to think about what it meant and how that statement related to the problems at hand."
"How about vague, confusing, and downright doesn’t make sense?"
"Can’t say I’ve ever heard of the Codex being so ambiguous. We may not have understood what was written at first, but it eventually made sense."
"Yeah, well, has there ever been a time when… Maybe I should start from the beginning." She ran a hand along her hair and down the braid draped over her shoulder. "When we got to the temple, mother hung back while I went ahead. I wasn’t sure if the stone guardians would let me by-" she let out a short breath, "I guess the word ‘guardians’ isn’t the best. Uh… stone sentinels, then."
"Yes, yes… I know what you’re talking about, whatever their name." She has a point though, the word ‘guardian’ does have a negative connotation these days, he thought.
"Well, I wasn’t sure they would let me pass because I’ve heard they wouldn’t let people pass unless they were on a quest. But, for some reason, I walked between them without any hassles. When I first saw the Codex, floating in that void between the two lenses, it was closed. But as I got close enough to see the design on it’s cover it opened, and…"
Shamino looked at Ariana. It was plain from the way her face was looked, and the way she absently ran her fingers along her braid that whatever she saw had stirred something in her. "And what did you read?"
Ariana swallowed to wet her throat. "That’s the point. I didn’t read anything. When it was half way open I could tell the page facing me was blank. Nothing. Not one scribble on it. Then, as it continued to open, I saw that the other page looked as if it was covered in silver leaf. When it was open all the way and laying flat, I could tell what the other page was – a mirror. A mirror, and I saw my reflection in it."
She spun around and faced Shamino. "A mirror and a blank page! What the hell are those supposed to mean? The Codex is supposed to have words, but all I got was nothing!"
"Hmm… I must admit I have never heard of that before." Shamino crossed his arms and took a deep breath. "The Codex is supposed to show people what they need to know. So let’s see if we can figure out what it is you need to know, and how a blank page and a mirror accomplishes that best."
"I’ve been trying for the past week, but all I’ve done is come up… well, a blank."
"Hold on, that just may be it." Ariana give him a perplexed look. "You went there looking for a way to contact your father, but the Codex felt there was something you need to learn first. It could be the blank page is supposed to represent you."
"Huh? I’m a blank page?"
"Yes… yes! It makes sense. For so long you have lived in the shadow of your father, but now you’re at a crossroads. You’re at a point where you can choose any path you want to take. You are a blank page, and what choices you make determines what shall be written on it."
Ariana cocked an eyebrow. "The scary thing about that is, it does kinda make sense. So what about the mirror?"
"That," Shamino said, "I believe is for you to figure out." He nodded towards her, then continued on his survey of the island.
It wasn’t until mid afternoon till Shamino saw Arian again. She was already
making a meal of some bread, cheese, and an apple. He noted the satisfied
look upon her face as he sat across the table from her. "You seem to be
of better spirits than this morn."
"Yes. I figured out what the mirror means."
Shamino broke off a piece of bread for himself. "And what would that be?"
"The mirror also represents me. When the Codex was fully open the mirrored page would come first, but I was distracted because I saw the blank page first. A mirror shows a reflection of things as they are now, without deceptions. The blank page represents my future… the future I choose."
"Interesting," he said as he sliced into the wheel of cheese. "And what has all of this taught you?"
"That the future, for me, is whatever I will make of it. But, I need to also be able to see myself as I really am." She looked up at the sky. "You were right, I have been living in his shadow. It’s made many things confusing, and harder than they should be. I’ve got to stop being ‘Ariana, daughter of the Avatar,’ and start being just Ariana."
Shamino nodded. "Sometimes the hardest lessons are the ones we can only teach ourselves. And when someone has had to live with expectations and legacies like you have, it can be easy to loose who you are deep inside."
"But… who am I?"
Shamino gave her a wry smile. "Well now, it’s going to be interesting finding out, isn’t it?"
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