When the sea takes Eirika away from her all L’Arachel can do is work. She never thinks about the angry foam, the black waves and the capsized boats on the night of the Sending, Eirika’s glittery kimono floating around her as she stood tall by the bow, right before the sea smacked into her.
Instead she graduates from college and starts observing, taking samples, theorizing, while around her the saltflake snow keeps falling and the sea shrouds itself in a thick layer of ice that groans and creaks like it’s hurting.
She doesn’t dare ask how long? Not to Ephraim, who dives in the freezing water trying to claw his way home every time Forde and Kyle take their eyes off him, not to Natasha, who wanted nothing but to fall asleep in the belly of the ocean with her people but has to sink her hands in a bowl of salt water each night before going to bed now.
Still, L’Arachel waits and thinks and grieves, until three years later the ice cracks.
It happens one night with three moons in the sky and flocks of people cluttering the beach, holding their breaths as they watch what’s always been a thing of the sea now stranded and transformed, like all that loses the blessing of its god.
There’s a loud, awful noise and the next moment she’s running towards the shore and jumping onto the nearest ice block, her feet sending spikes up to the tips of her fingers as she almost slips and falls. Ephraim is running by her side like something’s tugging at him, eating at him, and L’Arachel herself feels exhilarated while all around her the moon shines and triplicates and washes over Eirika’s naked body lying on the ice in front of them.
“Your coat,” is all she manages to say, already fumbling to take her own jacket off and kneeling by Eirika’s side, wrapping her in it with shaky hands. Ephraim almost hesitates before complying, as if finally— finally, after three inexorable years with his sister as good as dead, having her again has stunned him into silent, stupefied gratitude.
They carry her back to the surface without saying a word and L’Arachel pretends not to notice the shaking of his shoulders.
“Here, it’ll warm you up,” she says and hands Eirika a glass of plum wine, then sits by her side with a satisfied huff. It’s been days but Eirika’s face is still taut, her stare still restless; she flinches every evening when the song of the Sending starts playing across the town.
Nonetheless, she accepts the drink with a grateful smile. “I had just turned old enough for this when the hibernation started.”
L’Arachel laughs, quick and breezy, enough to loosen the knot in her throat, and takes a sip of her own wine, glancing out of the corner of her eye at the face Eirika makes as the taste of the alcohol burns her mouth.
She could almost pretend everything’s fine like this, except Eirika’s ena shines faintly in the light of the lamp when she grabs L’Arachel by the hand.
“The sea god is lonely, he’s so lonely it’s— not even Myrrh can do anything,” Eirika says, a feverish look in her eyes that breaks L’Arachel’s heart like ice. “Lyon’s still down there, he took my place, he…”
Now her voice falters, peters out in a choked up sound. L’Arachel grips her cold fingers tighter.
“He’s slowly drowning.”
The saltflake snow keeps piling up outside, casting looming shadows in the room, but for once to L’Arachel it doesn’t feel like a burial.
“We’ll get him back,” she says, like she’s never been more certain. She thinks about the three years she’s spent in the dark, no way of knowing whether she would live to see the end of the hibernation or if she’d die without seeing Eirika ever again, as good as dead, and she thinks of the lonely, selfish god jealous of his people like they’re playthings.
“We’ll get them all back.”