Characters: Kanaya Maryam & Rose Lalonde
Notes: Written for a Yuletide stocking stuffer.
The Land of Light and Rain makes no sense.
Saying such a thing is misleading, if not untrue; if it was not true, Rose wouldn't bother saying such a thing to herself. But in the interest of clarity, she must go on: the Land of Light and Rain is not a thing that makes sense. There's no inherent problem with the land itself, really; no more than there is with the rest of the game, at least. Rather, her land makes no sense in relation to her. Warm, buttery sunlight, not the high glare of noon but the gentler light that brings out and deepens the color of everything, and puff clouds riding high in the sky, sheeting down golden lines of rain occasionally into the stirring, lifeless, blue-and-gold waters, with her house (now immense) rising up like the point of an unmarked sundial, casting a long shadow over the sea...
It's all white glass and steel and shining, light everywhere. It's not a place that should belong to her.
There's still some island shore fringing the architectural marvel that is her current abode. She can come and sit on the little edge of sand in the sun, sweating under her black robe, and watch Kanaya tie up her long skirt and wade into the shallow waters with bare feet.
The troll girl seems both more delicate and in ways tougher than Rose expected, from their conversations – she steps over sharpish rocks on bare soles without even flinching. Her toenails are slightly pointed and the color of cantaloupe flesh. She's so prim, Rose expected perfect symmetry, not one cricked horn and black lips that bow very seriously.
Still. Kanaya talks exactly like she types. The way Kanaya talks is exactly the way a young woman balancing a book on her head to keep her back very straight walks. She's so direct that Rose actually feels quite safe around the other girl, lipstick-chainsaw or no. Someone that's as pathologically sincere as Kanaya is not someone she constantly has to watch for signs of betrayal, for the bitter bite of a twisted word.
More than anyone, Kanaya reminds Rose of John. John is skeptically optimistic and so direct he punches through everyone else's snarky horseshit, so straightforward that sometimes Rose wonders if it doesn't wrap back around to deviousness in a way. Kanaya does the same thing to her. She makes Rose watch her, but nothing underhanded ever comes.
She's either highly devious or really that kind. The thought is unsettling, in a way, which is a response Rose would analyze further if she wasn't so tired of thinking and content to just watch.
“An Entire Ocean Bereft Of Life,” Kanaya murmurs to herself, holding up the red canvas of her skirt in bunches, swaying back towards shore. Watching, Rose can see that she's feeling her way with her feet, like a tightrope walker or a dancer. “And The Task of Reseeding It Falls To You. I May Have Experience In Cultivation, But More So In The Realm Of Horticulture.”
Kanaya shakes her feet when she steps out of the water and comes to sit by Rose. Sand coats the soles of her feet. In this sunshine, Kanaya's grey skin deepens in color too, she nearly seems to glow – jade green, or the color of heather, green under grey, perhaps. Her skin isn't so very thick, in some parts at least. The color of her blood still shows in the right light, and when she blushes.
“Do you know what the rain reminds me of?”
“Needles.” Rose looks away from her, into the endless, flat horizon, which goes on and on until it there's nothing more to be seen. It's blurred here and there by rainfall.
“In What Way?”
“They used to be able to seed embryos, you know. With...” She can't remember – if they were glass tubes of incredible fineness, or needles. And it probably matters less, now that the entire human race except for her and her friends and her mom and John's father is dead. “... They could inject DNA,” she continues, without completing her first thought. “Into the embryo. DNA thinner than a strand of hair. There's at least one way to seed life.”
“You May Be Called On For Science But I Believe You Will Find Some Element Of Artistry Required As Well. When Your Sprite Described Your Task He Told You That You Would Play The Rain Isnt That So.” Kanaya looks at her, and then at the ground, lifting a palmful of grit contemplatively.
“I suppose. The strings of a harp, or of a violin.”
“You Were Given The Code To Keep From When You Were Very Young. And You Do Have Some Experience With The Violin Isnt That So.” Pale sand runs through grey fingers and Kanaya scoops up another handful, rubbing it between her rough palms, a thin trail of sand and larger pebbles still falling.
Rose looks away from her and closes her eyes momentarily. She's mastered the catnap, but it's been a long time since she's had the recommended eight hours and it seems unlikely that she'll get a chance for a full night of sleep soon. When she opens her eyes again Kanaya is watching her carefully and obviously from the corner of one luminously orangey eye. “I Will Of Course Be Willing To Offer Whatever Assistance You Are Inclined To Accept To The Limits Of My Ability.”
“What kind of gardening did you do?” Rose asks – she finds herself curious. Was the flora of Alternia as dangerous as some of the fauna is purported to be?
“Nothing Quite Under These Circumstances. However A New Challenge Would Not Be Entirely Unwelcome And I Know Of Some Plants That Do Root In This Kind Of Soil.”
“Earth had those too.” Had, past-tense. Her Land does share some elements in common with earth – large oceans, sandy shores. Never so fancifully, but the commonalities exist.
“Your Oceans Are Shallow. Of Course I Never Cultivated Such Things But Alternia's Seas Were Rich With Aquatic Life Both Animal And Plant. Given That Your Waters Are Shallow And There Is No Shortage Of Sunlight You Might Cultivate Something Truly Splendid In Way Of Reefs And Undersea Forests.”
“Do you think you could grow that kind of plant?”
“I Could Offer You Some General Assistance At The Very Least.”
Rose rakes up her own handful of fine sand, and takes her own look at it. “I don't know that you'd have much in the way to work with for really growing things on land...”
“Some Plants Will Be Hardy Enough To Flourish.”
“Where will they get their water?”
“Hardy Enough And The Rain Should Suffice.”
Scrubby bushes, she imagines, and sharp grasses. The turtles have tough skin. They might like it. “You know, the sea was supposedly the cradle of life, on earth,” she says.
“The Same On Alternia. This Is Why The Aquatic Trolls Are The Highest In Our Chromatic Caste. They Are The Closest To The Origin Of Our Species. All Land Dwellers Are Supposed Degenerates.”
Illogical troll prejudice that she knows doesn't mean much to Kanaya.
She trails white sand through her fingers. A light warm breeze sifts it away, back into the water. She's not ready for this task yet; she'll take it as it comes, she supposes. Even if she still doesn't feel prepared.
“I Dont Believe We Are Given Roles That Necessarily Suit Us,” Kanaya says, looking out over the water. “Rather I Think The Game Is Constructed To Challenge Us And To Force Personal Growth For Whatever Reason It Has. Likewise I Believe We Are Not Necessarily Given Foundations That We Like But Perhaps Rather What We Need For Whatever Reason.”
“You have an optimistic assessment of the characters of whoever designed this game.”
Kanaya ducks a look at her. She does have her insecurities, weak chinks in her armor, stress points. Rose knows well enough where they are – she could hurt this other girl if she needed to. She could break her down.
“Its Just That I Feel That A Realistic Touch To Optimism Might Be More Practical Than An Entirely Pessimistic Outlook All Of The Time. Regarding Something As A Challenge Rather Than A Simple Burden Prepares The Mind To Overcome It. I Believe.”
It's John's skeptical optimism, with Kanaya's own twist.
There's humor to all of this, in a way. Kanaya, the Virgo, the gardener, cultivating and bringing forth new life. Even her blood is verdant green.
“Did you ever play an instrument, Kanaya?”
“We Are Not An Especially Musical Race I Am Sorry To Say.”
“But you sewed.” As far as experience with some kind of stringing goes, a needle and thread counts for something. A needle, a thread, a growing garden, a chain saw. Kanaya was (or is she still?) the Sylph of Space. “What did you have to do in your land?”
“I Stoked A Volcano At One Point.”
“What was that like?”
“Hot And Noisy. I Prefer Quieter Pursuits.”
“So growing something again...”
“Is Appealing, Yes.”
Rose contemplates. Kanaya shifts, self-conscious. Rose never spent much time around other girls her age. She wonders if they're all like this; she certainly knows all troll girls aren't. She knows she's a difficult girl to make friends with, sometimes. It's really a bit of a wonder that the people who like her bother.
“I wonder.” The sand is cool to dig her fingers into, but Rose can feel it pushing under her fingernails; they'll be a little ragged latter, in need of trimming. “Colors are actually symbolic, or they can be, on earth. Do you know green symbolizes?”
By her friend's somewhat fretful look, Rose guesses not.
She meets Kanaya's eyes for a moment before she smiles slightly, away over the water. Not much, but even so she's highly conscious of that small expression on her face. “I'll tell you later.”
Jade icons, and jealously – the worst of the two immediate associations that leap to mind. Envy, perhaps – but not here, she thinks. Rather, teeming, flourishing, rustling, breathing life.