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Liars (Lake Baikal | Siberia)
She climbed from the bus on wobbly footing like a mainlander complaining of sea legs. Her backpack swarmed behind her shoulders, longer nearly than she was tall. The wind caught her body like a sail, shoving her forward two steps despite the weight of her backpack, and she shivered ferociously. As the bus rolled away, a plume of black puffed in the air. Kemala coughed as she labored across the street to the depot.

The town didn’t seem like much. The weather said it was warm, but it obviously lied.

Once out of the wind, she searched for information on an air bnb or someplace to sleep for the night. She only picked this area to stop on the way to Moscow because of what she read about the lake itself. Its waters lapped like a slumbering ocean nearby. Wafts of fog began to mist new fingers landward. If it wasn’t so cold, she would have found the scenery beautiful. It was certainly different than anything she'd ever seen before. A lake this deep and ancient must nest a great Nāga king if she could find him.

Despite clear directions, she found a hostel along the waters’ edge. She paid the minimal fees after some help with a translation app. They may all be Custody citizens, but she barely understood what anyone said.

First thing she did was wash away the stink of travel before sinking to sleep on a bunk.

She sat on the shore of the lake, toes scrunching the icy cold water. Earlier, there was a family pattering around in not but swimsuits! She shivered just to fathom the idea of total submersion. Simply dipping a toe was frigid. Yet, here she remained. The rocks on which she sat were knobbly and uncomfortable, far from powdery sands of Bali. Yet, Kemala remained, watching the span of the water, contemplating her location.

[[continued from Wanderlust]]

An early morning ferry brought her back to the mainland, once it (finally) became clear that the scant necessities she had packed in Moscow for a brief, unknown trip some time ago were really not going to cut an extended also unknown trip for the foreseeable. Something to swim in topped other more practical considerations as she flitted about the town. She sent a bunch of excited picture messages to Nox now she had signal again too, detailing yesterday’s hike (and including a number of bad, brightly grinning selfies).

Later that afternoon she found some random spot along the shoreline to sit and pass some time before the ferry would take her back to the island. The water was deliciously cool and clear as glass, but it pulled strangely at the melancholy in her, like the sense of something missing. Later she sat on the sands and pawed through the images she had drawn of the creature. Her neat intentions had long since strayed to disorder, and pages had been torn free and rearranged and redrawn like she might find more secrets in the creature’s likeness (she didn’t). Wind caught one such scrap, containing an exposition of scales and tentacles, and though she wasn’t especially precious about the work she did not want to litter, so she shrugged the strap of her bag onto a shoulder and hurried after it. The drawing caught in the sand by a woman sitting in the surf, before said surf licked up at its edges and began to drag it down.

“Sorry,” she said, leaning to pluck the now soggy piece. Her hair was a mass of half-dried curls from the swimming, knotted now on her head but running shivery tickles down her neck and soaking into the tee she had thrown over her costume. That wildness felt strangely palpable contrasted against the most beautiful woman she thought she may have ever seen in her life. But if Thalia noticed such things, as she noticed all such beautiful things, it did not seem to draw her shy for her rather earthly comparison. The page dripped a little. “Ah,” she laughed. “I suppose it makes it more realistic.”
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth  through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimthallethe.jpg]
The air flowed outward from her lungs on a long, slow exhale, and Kemala moved from the first position into another. Beneath her, a blanket was spread across the coarse sand. She had no yoga mat, unable to ferry one throughout her limited packing across Asia. The cushion of sand beneath was plenty soft. The callouses of a life hard-worked blunted any potential twinges of sharp rock should they burrow their way to the surface.

After another six breaths, she shifted from the downward angle of a dolphin pose into a challenging balance upon her palms. The balance was internal as much as external as her feet lifted from the blanket and knees perched upon the back of her arms. Her shoulders braced the weight of herself as she breathed out the ache of any potential strain. She was small, but her arms were braces of sinuous muscle.

From the inversion, she lowered herself back to the blanket, shifting from a challenging script into a recovery pose. The stretch soothed the ache from her back from long travel on buses and trains as her eyes glazed across the surface of the lake water. For a moment, she imagined the undulating little slaps of watery movement to mimic the ocean. The lake was so large, a form of waves licked the beach, but it was obviously different. Before her heart began to yearn, she focused on her breathing and meant to absorb the sensation of homesickness when a sudden flutter of motion darted across her line of sight. A paper tumbled on the wind, coming to rest soggy where the lake met dry land.

A girl followed quickly, chasing down the mutinous paper.

The girl was soaking wet, a mop of hair sticking her shirt to her back as if having dunked in the lake water. Kemala was presently wearing long black leggings and a bright yellow yoga shirt that spilled over one shoulder yet she was still chilly in the cool air and here this girl was clothed sodden and happy as a dolphin under a rainbow.

She rested on the blanket, meditative trance broken by the intrusion, both visible and audible. One brow lifted in response, but not to the murky Russian accent (quite distinct from those of the locals) or the demonstrated drawing, it was for the sudden presence of familiarity she hadn’t encountered before. It was like a flower stretching open pedals to the sun following a heavy rain: welcome and peaceful.

“Is no harm,” she replied, her slender eyes studying the girl. “Have we met before? You seem so familiar to me.” She blinked, but the question wasn’t intrusive, although expecting compliance with an answer.

Her attention lifted from the bedraggled drawing. Curious grey eyes ran another inspection over the woman, head slightly tilted like she took the question seriously. She would have remembered drawing a face like that, for certain. Anything else was unlikely; people rarely recognised an artist even if they enjoyed the work, and Thalia was not memorable in any case. Her brows knit soft with the contemplation before her expression opened up like sunrise, and her lips formed an, Oh.” A bright smile followed, and she sat down cross-legged in the sand without invitation. The paper she draped over one knee to dry.

Emily had explained a lot the day she’d taught the fundamentals, and Thalia had not internalised it all -- given her general state at the time. Even in Moscow, the heart of strange, she had not encountered much in the way of kindred souls. Except she felt it now, that little flutter like bubbles, speaking of comfort and familiarity -- the same awareness that had stopped Emily in her tracks that day at the park with Calvin, and prompted her to intrude upon Thalia’s clear distress at the time.  “No, I don’t think so. It’s probably the other, ah… the other thing, you know?” There were lots of names for it, and she’d never settled on one. The Pope’s warnings were still somewhat at the forefront of her mind. And she wasn’t sure how quickly she could draw upon that sense of light for an example anyway.

“I haven’t met many others. Well, only the woman who taught me how to do it safely. I’m Thalia, by the way. Are you travelling alone too?”
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth  through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimthallethe.jpg]
Kemala was strangely comfortable with the intrusive company, if only for the epiphany that followed. What was implied eventually settled, and a thoughtful hmm of consideration pursed Kemala’s lips. Suddenly, she realized she sensed the energies of feminine shakti, and a pleased twitch cascaded across her expression. “The wind whispers of others, but this is the first it has shown itself to me.” She bowed her head reverently, accepting of the divine energy just as she accepted air upon inhalation.

Hands resting poised on her knees, Kemala’s lids lowered a moment as she opened herself to the feminine force. Acceptance and vulnerability were the keys, but once the goddess poured herself within, it was discipline and will that molded the energies into purpose.

She looked to the wet paper, summoning the energy of water to call to like kind. The threads pulled a bubble of shimmering liquid to the surface, only to deposit the cold water into the lake where it belonged.

Kemala bowed her head and the shakti force was released. “I was also taught, but not by a woman.” The cryptic hint went unexplained as the mental image of the Nāgarāja and his lordly servant came to mind.

In the typical Balinese custom, she placed her palms together before her chest and bowed ever so slightly. The images of coral and other tribal works of nautical figures inked upon her dark forearms. The ritual was modified to be more informal than what would be demonstrated before, say, a kingly figure. It was still respectful.Om swastiastu. Halo, it is nice to meet you. I am Kemala, also a traveler. I seek to come to Moscow.”

Oh, she was beautifully regal, every movement infused as if with the elegant flow of dance. It was an unusual symphony of grace to behold in so natural a form, and utterly beguiling. Thalia watched as the light enveloped and the threads entwined into the sketch draped over her knee, coaxing out the moisture. It had never even occurred to her that such a thing was possible, and she itched to touch a light finger to that watery bubble as it arced its way back to the lake’s embrace. She refrained though, not wanting to tread on the allure of the moment.

“Not by a woman?” The question was idle, half recalling how she felt nothing at all when Nox used his power. Nor, she realised suddenly, did he resonate with the same sense of kinship that would have marked him for a channeler. “You know you glow when you do that,” she added. A smile warmed. There was a formality to the gesture and words, a different kind to the rigid distance of Noctua’s habit, yet no less a ritual.

“Kemala,” she repeated pleasantly. “It’s nice to meet you too.” She was not sure what to do with that sense of reverence, nor how to offer it back (was she supposed to offer it back?). Curiosity lit her expression. “You’re headed to Moscow? That’s where I live these days. Not originally, but I’ve been there quite a few years now. It’s where my studio is.” She tapped the sketch on her knee, by way of explanation, but did not linger. “What takes you there? You can have my number if you like. I don’t know when I’ll be home again, but it’s the sort of city where it can be nice to know a familiar face. Are you staying at the lake for long?” Then, trailing a finger along her own arm in demonstration, she added. "These are beautiful, by the way."
"A river is water in its loveliest form; rivers have life and sound and movement and infinity of variation, rivers are veins of the earth  through which the lifeblood returns to the heart."
Roderick Haig-Brown
[Image: nimthallethe.jpg]

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