Sea and Sky:

Berra's Tale

by 'rith

Archive: Ask first, please.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics, no infringement intended or money made by use.
Continuity: Current DCU. S&S universe, but only by eight words. Otherwise canon. Uh... yes, Berra is a real character. Tempest's mother. Really truly. Go read the Tempest miniseries, I ain't making this stuff up. Or not mostly. ;)

At the heart of the story lies fear, some of which was warranted. But most sprang only from our own anxieties, the shadows in our own hearts.

Garth called us cowards, and he was right.

I am Berra of the Idylists of the city of Shayeris, once called Crastinus. This chronicle will likely be read by none but me, another scroll to lie moldering in this library that my husband built.

His name was Thar, and he was a king.

I was his queen in the days when those things mattered. Together we ruled over Shayeris in its Hidden Valley, content to hide ourselves from other Atlanteans and secure in the knowledge that the pacifism and solitude the Idylists cherished would preserve our people from all harm.

Thar was heir to an ancient legacy of magical power, passed down through generations and made evident in the purple of his eyes. He was a sorcerer of no little power, though his magics were shaped more for creation and lore than vulgar displays of power. Thar's brother--may his true name be lost forever--was not so like-minded.

He who would later be called "Slizzath" envied his brother's power, feared it, and turned his own considerable intellect to the vile sorcery of necromancy. When the Idylists discovered what he was doing, Slizzath was exiled from the city.

It wasn't enough, and Thar knew it. Using both magic and technology he constructed an armory to combat his brother and his brother's creations, thereby breaking the code of pacifism that had governed Shayeris for centuries. When he tried to warn our people of the threat and showed them his weapons...they judged him insane, and plotted against him, and finally murdered him in their frenzy of fear.

Before he died, Thar managed to cast a spell that sealed Slizzath into a prison-dimension, far from his power. He also created a scroll, a binding-spell, which held the description of the spell and in addition instructions for his heir, who might bear the ancestral power and accidentally release Slizzath. He included those warnings knowing that I carried his son--and the Idylists knew it as well.

Perhaps I was fortunate that they simply exiled me instead of simply killing me along with my husband. After Thar's murder they seemed to regain their senses and renewed their vows of pacifism--far too late. Along with my exile they spread tales of the evils of magic, and how that magic could be seen in the purple eyes of its wielders.

I was in shock, both at my husband's actions--for at the time I feared the same as my people--and by his murder. Lacking any other plan, I swam to Poseidonis among the domed cities of Atlantis, where I thought I might find refuge. But I knew nothing of how far the rumors had spread, how the warnings against purple-eyed babes had traveled. Or how the Shakalite priests had woven those warnings into their own ancient histories, the legends of Daanuth Arion's-bane. Garn Daanuth's evil works had much to do with the fall of Atlantis in ancient days, and any child suspected of carrying his heritage would be condemned to die.

The Poseidonians welcomed me as any traveler. I did not tell them I had traveled from Shayeris. For all they had done, the Idylists were still my people and deserved their secrecy. My new benefactors clothed me, fed me, cared for me throughout my pregnancy; and when it was time, gave me into the hands of their priests. With their care the birthing went swiftly.

I heard my child cry; I heard the priests mutter. They handed him to me and watched while I fed him for the first and only time, and named him with the letters of my husband's name. I saw the purple of his eyes that the Idylists had feared and congratulated myself for having found a place where he might be safe.

And then one of the priests left the birthing-chamber, carrying my son with him, and before I could even lift my head to protest they had drugged me into unconsciousness.

I awoke in a prison cell. Oh, it was comfortable enough; in fact, it was one of the rooms reserved for members of the Shakalites' own high clergy. But while the door remained locked, I was a prisoner nonetheless. Pleading availed me nothing, neither to the priests nor to the stony-faced guards who brought me food. I cried, and begged, and finally screamed. Beat my hands bloody against the door. Tried to starve myself. Attempted everything a helpless prisoner does, all to no avail. I prayed to every god I could think of, from the interloper sea-gods Neptune and Poseidon to the Mother of Oceans.

At the last I swore my soul to any power--ANY power--that would return my son to me. And nothing. I make for a poor cautionary tale; the currency of my soul too mean, it seems, for even a demon to accept the offer.

I was taken from the cell only once, to be a witness as they placed Garth on Mercy Reef. Why they forced me to watch...I can only attribute to cruelty. I struggled to free myself from the iron grip of the guards and failed. Hung, sobbing, in their grasp as they left him and took me back to the city and my cell. For long days after I only slept, and ate when they forced me, and slept again. In dreams I might hold my son again; waking reality held only pain.

And then, one day, they simply let me go.

The priests had told everyone my son had died in childbirth, my wits addled by the ordeal. And who would dispute with them over the word of a penniless refugee outcast?

I searched Mercy Reef, and found no sign. Nor had I expected to. An infant, unprotected and exposed to predators and the killing air?

My husband was dead, my son was dead, and I had nothing and nowhere to go.

In children's tales, this is the point where the battered heroine makes her own way in the world. Becomes self-sufficient, learns to fend for herself.

I returned to Shayeris.

Why there? There was nowhere else. And I was never a fairy-tale heroine.

Shayeris was cut off. With no news from other cities for years, we heard nothing of King Orin and the purple-eyed child he had found. When we finally did...I could not imagine it might be my son. Yet the tales finally reached us of an 'Aqualad' whose given name was Garth--and I knew it had to be true.

But secrecy and silence proved too ingrained a habit to break. With the constant battles for the rulership of other Atlantean cities and the increased encroachment of the surface world, we dared not reveal ourselves. And I was far too unsure of what I might say to Garth, or he to me. Afraid, perhaps, to see too much of his father in his face. Even when Garth came seeking Shayeris, looking for his heritage, I hid from him and caused the full truth to be hidden as well.

Years passed. I had what reports of him I could gather, news that came to us on the deep currents and often far too late. That he had companions on the surface world, that he seemed to prefer their company to that of the Poseidonians except one, the warrior-maid Tula. That when she was slain he withdrew, utterly. That his partnership with Orin Atlan's-son continued to disintegrate. I never knew of it until afterward when Atlan the Loner, that great and ancient meddler, took my son away and taught him the magics of his heritage. Atlan told Garth just enough to set him on the path that the Idylists had done so much to obscure...and in so doing, caused the very thing my people and I had tried so very hard to prevent.

Slizzath was freed.

And so, finally, there was no more hiding. Garth learned the full truth...or at least, as much of it as he could bear to hear. I came out to meet him and saw his emotions change from shock to bewilderment to a deep, uncomprehending anger--all to be put aside to face the uncle who had stolen his power. We, who had taken such pride in our secrecy and our pacifism, went out to fight with the weapons my husband had made so long ago. We did so only at the goading of Thar's son, my son, who had come into his full strength, both of magic and of an unrelenting resolve to do what was right and what was necessary to finish his father's work and seal Slizzath away forever.

He has not spoken to me since we met on the eve of that fateful battle, nor had I expected him to. He...blames me. And not without reason. I accepted the exile from my own people, when I might have demanded on my rights as queen to see those who killed Thar exiled instead. But like the others I feared the magic that might have released Slizzath from Thar's spell-prison. I thought I might be giving my son a chance at life, removed from Shayeris and far from his father's bequeathed power. Without the binding-spell, Garth would never achieve his full power nor accidentally release Slizzath. I believed that removing him from Shayeris, leaving him ignorant of his birthright, would be enough.

I had thought to save him, and instead delivered him into the hands of other enemies.

And now...since he defeated Slizzath, Garth has made the surface his home. What I hear of him still comes second-hand: that he 'adventures' now with his oldest surface-friends, that he has taken a landsman as a lover, that he has not yet returned to Atlan for full training in the magic of his birthright.

I sit in the library that Thar assembled, and wish my son would come home. But this never was his home, I was never his mother in anything but the most basic sense...and he is happy, where he is.

What else might a mother wish for her son?

I have no right to more.