Night descended on the underside of the world and brought out the light of the stars that had been blotted out by the anti-sun. From the lightless depths of the oceanic abyss the Kraken rose, called upwards by the celestial masterpiece that shone onto the unquiet seas of the underworld.
It hadn’t always lived in the abyssal sea. It’s memory was cloudy but it knew it had once contested with the gods and the heroes of the world above. Whether it was divine might or mortal will that tried to pierce the mysteries of the unfathomable sea, the Kraken had been there to oppose them. It was a creature of chaos and power, it’s essence defined by the limitless potential for the world to strikedown gods and mortals both.
And yet as it rose to the surface, the Kraken was weighed down by a collar and leash which had been newly affixed to its broad neck.
“I don’t think it looks too happy,” Way said and reclined back into the fluffy folds of the cloud she sat on.
“It’s still annoyed that I didn’t let it finish its rampage,” Jin said.
She was dressed in her “formal courtly attire”; black robes trimmed with radiant purple, her sceptre in her right hand and her burning crown on her head. Far beneath her, the sea churned with the Kraken’s arrival but that wasn’t a concern. Like the rest of the monsters that had washed up on the Last Island’s shores, Jin’s agents had escorted the Kraken to the realm she’d woven onto the underside of the world. The monsters needed a home too, but Jin wasn’t about to let them turn the Last Island into a gourmet feeding ground.
With a delicate wave of her left hand, she drew another constellation onto the night sky. On the dome of the heavens, the Great Hunter appeared, glaring down at the monsters of the underworld. Countless light years away, in ages long forgotten, the stars that made up the constellation blazed to life in time for the light to travel the vast reach of space and land on the underworld of the Last Island for the first time that night.
“Think it’s going to be a problem?” Way asked.
“I hope so,” Jin said. “It wouldn’t be much of a monster if it didn’t try to cause problems.”
“I’m guessing the people in the world above won’t be quite as happy about that prospect,” Way said and twirled a bit of cloud into the scene of a dozen little people fleeing before a miniature Kraken.
“They did seem a little unnerved,” Jin said, “How do you think Kari’s doing with them?”
“Wonderfully, if I had to guess. She has a talent for managing people,” Way said. “By the time we get back, I’m willing to bet she has them more united by that one Kraken attack than they would have been by a decade of living together.”
“Just so long as she doesn’t convince them to come down here and start hunting the monsters,” Jin said.
“We might want to warn her about that. Her homeworld does have a tradition of heroes crawling into forgotten dungeons and eradicating everything that moves inside them.” Way said.
“I seem to recall someone having fun there on our last visit helping out a band of fledgling adventurers with just such an expedition,” Jin said.
“Yes, it was funny how there hadn’t been any trouble from the underworld until shortly before we showed up,” Way said. “Almost as if some Queen had given orders to leave the surface world alone and then allowed one of the lesser schemers to ‘escape’ her domain.”
Jin looked away innocently and whistled as though Way couldn’t possibly have been speaking of her. She also let her courtly garb dissolve into sparkles revealing her more usual streetwear of a t-shirt and a skirt underneath.
“I think Kari will be all right,” Way said. “She knows how we’re thinking to use this place and she knows that the monsters are important to you.”
“Not just to me actually,” Jin said. “The people above need them too. These creatures are their fears made manifest. Each monster holds the fragment of an idea and without them the Islanders wouldn’t be able to understand or communicate about a part of the reality that exists here.”
“They need the Kraken to speak?” Way asked.
“Not to speak exactly, but they need it as a part of their understanding of how dangerous the sea is and the peril that exists in the unknown,” Jin said.
“We’ve both destroyed monsters before though,” Way said as her cloud drifted in the gentle wind to circle around behind Jin.
“And we will again,” Jin said. “People are good at creating monsters, or becoming them. Without the Kraken, a new monster would rise up to take its place. I’d just like to make things easier on all concerned and allow the Kraken to keep his job.”
Way’s reach out and grabbed Jin around the waist, pulling her down onto cloud chair so that the two were sitting together entwined in each others arms.
“I know that’s all true, but I also know you have other plans in mind too,” Way said.
“How?” Jin asked, turning to look into Way’s eyes and striving not to get too distracted.
“Because you’re you,” Way said. “Clever, sneaky, amazing you.”
“And lucky, don’t forget lucky,” Jin said and kissed Way quickly.
The stars glowed a little brighter above them a moment before Jin spoke again.
“You’re right that monsters are handy for other things though,” Jin said. “Some of them aren’t so bad. Others are but they can still be useful.”
“To keep the people above in line?” Way asked.
“To protect them,” Jin said. “Even when people stop believing in heroes, they’ll still believe in monsters and when a worse monster shows up, having a bad guy fighting for you can seem pretty appealing.”
“I seem to recall that you had a problem with heroes when we met,” Way said.
“Yeah, I was a little bitter there for like a decade or so,” Jin said. “They hadn’t saved my father, so I didn’t see any reason to believe they’d save me either, but then I met you.”
“I was a monster when you met me though,” Way said.
“You were lost, alone and in a bad situation,” Jin said. “But you have never been a monster. I knew that from the first time I saw you.”
“Careful or I’ll have to catch you in my claws and chew you up,” Way warned.
“Mmm, claws,” Jin said and cuddled closer.
Way hugged her and kissed the top of her head.
“You’re too kind for a place this dark,” Way said. “But it’s sort of a theme for you isn’t it?”
“Dark places?” Jin said. “I guess. I seem to wind up in a lot of them.”
“Is that what you want?” Way asked. “To be the jailer for monsters and keep people safe from them?”
“Maybe. It seems like something I’m good at,” Jin said.
“I’m good at fighting, but I don’t know if its what I want to do once our apprenticeship is over,” Way said.
“We’ve been at this for a few years, and took classes and projects for years before that,” Jin said. “You’d think we’d have it all figured out by now right?”
“I’ve been trying to learn things up till now,” Way said. “Maybe it’s time to start looking forward?”
“I think you’re right,” Jin said, gazing up at Way “But for moment, I like the view just as it is.”