The Pools of Nereus
By: Steve Carr

Profanus, the second of the ice–blue suns, twin suns of a long ago exploded gigantic mother–sun was at mid–sky. Putto–Vinci's wings were flapping frantically as he crossed the emerald green sky. This almost frenzied fashion in which he was flying was against Putto–Vinci's nature.

Seeing Putto–Vinci's silhouette against the glowing Profanus, the other Putti fluttered their wings excitedly also. The Putti were momentarily distracted from watching their charges, the Renaissites who lay peacefully in a state of perpetual reflection in the translucent pools of crimson tinged gel.

In his agitation, Putto–Vinci was fearful that in his rush to reach Monet–Rex that he would overlook the very thing that was causing his near panic. There were rumors of a changing in color of one of the pools. It was this he was scanning for as he flew above the millions of pools. A disruption of reflection of one of the Renaissites had not happened in a millennium.

Putto–Vinci knew there was need for heightened concern. It was rumored there was one or more Putti who had joined with The School of the Waters–In–Between and the Collections of the Southern Cap. The School and the Collections had made it clear they had one mission now, to bring the Renaissites out of their perpetual reflection. Traitorous Putti aligning with The School and the Collections would bring about a new and unprecedented threat to the Northern Cap.

At the Northern pole was The Haze. Putto–Vinci reached it not seeing a change in any of the pools he had flown over. It was from where the Monet–Rex, The Lightness, ruled over the Northern cap and the pools.

Entering the haze Putto–Vinci was suddenly at the end of a cavernous nave that stretched a distance that couldn't be measured. Other Putti were flying in and out of the nave and greeted Putto–Vinci with a slight bow of their heads as they passed him. All the Putti of Nereus knew Putto–Vinci because he was the ambassador and speaker for The Lightness.

Putto–Vinci rushed down the nave, The Haze forming as wisps of color and form all around him as he flew. Along the way he passed alcoves where statues of the grotesque and bizarre creatures of the sixth moon Bosch shaped and dissolved and shaped again into a different one.

Entering the presence of The Lightness happened abruptly, marked first by the only truly solid thing in the The Haze, the living Capitoline Wolf. It stood erect on her four legs, her many tits being suckled on by the Putti who came in and out of The Haze to drink from her many teats. Beyond her was The Lightness, a bursting circular formation of color. It shifted in size and intensity from moment to moment. At the core of The Lightness was a round, red, glowing, pulsating, circle casting one impression of hue and intensity to another, always changing.

Putto–Vinci hovered reverently in mid–air before The Lightness and bowed his head and spoke softly, but urgently. "I come from the shore Your Lightness with news of rumors that The School has turned an unknown number of Putti to their ways. The School and the Collections are endeavoring to bring one or more Renaissites out of their reflections."

Out of The Lightness came a voice, grave in tone, but gentle, questioning. "There has been no change in any of the pools?"

"No, Your Lightness. No changes have been reported by any Putti," Putto–Vinci said.

The Lightness spoke again. "Perhaps The School is creating these rumors in order to arouse concern where none is warranted. Nevertheless, The School inhabits all the Water–In–Between and should not be trusted. Their supreme being, Trident, does not understand the purpose of the pools. The School travels in great numbers in the waters of Nereus and they are not beyond acting on Trident's ignorance nor are the Collections."

"I understand," Putto–Vinci said.

"If one in a shoal knows something then it is known and sung about by the entirety of The School," The Lightness said. "Station a few of your trusted brothers on the shores and have them listen closely to the music of the shoals. The shoals do not act or think independently of The School. If Trident and the Collections are up to something then every shoal will be singing about it. Be alert but be calm Putto–Vinci."

"Yes, Your Lightness," Putto–Vinci said, bowing then turning and exiting The Haze feeling no better than when he had entered it.

#

Sacre, the second of the two suns was rising over the Northern Cap as Putto–Vinci hovered above a female Renaissite, his wings barely fluttering. The female Renaissite was in a state of deep reflection. Her eyes were wide open but not focused, her breathing steady, and typical of the Grecoites of the Southern Cap. Her long thin legs and arms were still and seemed to fill the entire pool in which she lay. Putto–Vinci had been one of the Putti who rescued her after she washed up on a Northern Cap shore many movements in time ago.

"I escaped being put to death by my collection on the Southern Cap as soon as they became aware of my reflection abilities," she had told him. "My swim across the Waters–In–Between also nearly ended in my death. The shoals did everything in their powers to drown me."

Looking down on the female Grecoite, a Greco–humanoid, Putto–Vinci felt a tinge of sadness for her and for all the Renaissites. Once in the pools they never aged. From the time they first lay in the crimson gel they fell into a state of eternal reflection, each mind being connected to every other mind of every Renaissite in all the pools. After either escaping or being rescued from their Collections and entering their pool, life beyond it ceased to exist.

"Reflection is the immersion into always changing, shifting color. Color speaks to all Renaissites. Each Renaissite brings to the pool a new hue. They also bring a new way to contemplate color and the relationship of color to light and shadow. Color is never ending and can not die. Color is being," Monet–Rex had told Putto–Vinci on the day Putto–Vinci was selected as the new ambassador. "Think of their minds as a map of colors in which the directions and locations on the maps are always in flux, and each new Renaissite adds a new part of the never ending map."

Looking at the Grecoite below him and every time he looked down on or tended a Renaissite he pondered the usefulness of an everlasting life devoted solely to reflecting on and sharing colors with millions of others simultaneously. It was that thought that made Putto–Vinci understand why the combined Collections of the Southern Pole had joined the Schools to destroy the pools. They did not understand why the pools needed to exist at all.

The last time it happened there was a disruption, a darkness. The pools and the Renaissites in them came out of the dark bringing new reflections guided by The Lightness. But never before had there been rumors that Putti had joined with the Collections and Schools to bring about such an attempted destruction.

The gel provided everything the Renaissites needed to live, as well as served as the conductive material through which the Renaissites passed their thoughts. It was the putti's sole duty, to maintain the reflection sustaining gel.

"She has been in that pool for many movements."

Startled out of his contemplation, Putto–Vinci looked up and saw Putto–Pablo hovering just above him, his wings barely moving. "Yes, like all the Greco–humanoids from her city–state, she barely fits into the pool."

"Yet, there she is kept like all the other Renaissites from all the different city–states," Putto–Pablo said coming down to eye–to–eye level with Putto–Vinci. His clear blue eyes were vacant of any emotion in the typical Putti cherub face.

"Kept?" Putto–Vinci replied, "they enter the pools of their own accord, they are drawn to the palette, to the reflection abilities of all the other Renaissites. You know that."

"Of course, every Putti knows that, but it does make you wonder if they truly know what an eternity in the pool will be like before they lie down in one," Putto–Pablo said, his wings fluttering nervously.

"An eternity reflecting on the changing and shifting nature of color, the transformative nature of color, linked with the minds of a million others also reflecting on the same thing is a noble existence," Putto–Vinci said.

"Noble but to what ends?" Putto–Pablo said, turning and flying away.

Putto–Vinci had known Putto–Pablo since the end of the darkness and had grown accustomed to his questioning of the purpose of the pools and the Renaissites in reflection in them. With rumors about traitors among the Putti, Putto–Vinci was concerned about the words Putto–Pablo used.

"Kept?" He said aloud in a whisper, mulling over the meaning of the word.

He looked down at the female Greco–humanoid Renaissite and had an uneasy feeling that in ways he had not thought about before, he and the other Putti were not just attendants, but also keepers of their charges.

#

In the light of a rising Profanus, Putto–Vinci and Putto–Ciambue stood on a large rock looking out over the vast turquoise waters beyond the shore and heard the songs of the shoals. The entirety of The School was singing in the Waters–In–Between the same notes in unison.

"The School intends for the song to be heard," Putto–Ciambue said. "The shoals could have transmitted the same song to each other without making a sound. The School did nothing without there being a clear purpose behind it."

Even as Putti never aged, all Putti knew that Putto–Ciambue was the first, the oldest, among them. He was the first to arrive after the ending of the darkness, and he was known for his wisdom. Many of the Putti were surprised that Putto–Vinci had been chosen by The Lightness as his ambassador and not Putto–Ciambue. Putto–Ciambue had taken the oversight in stride, and since the emergence of The Lightness, he and Putto–Vinci had become close friends. It was Putto–Ciambue that Putto–Vinci trusted the most among all the Putti and confided in when in doubt. Putto–Ciambue was the only Putti among them all who had facial hair, a small single white hair that hung down from his dimpled chin. As was his habit when in serious conversation, he twirled the single hair around with his pudgy index finger.

"From early on we putti are taught it how The School is able to keep all the different water–beings in the vast Water–In–Between living in harmony," Putto–Vinci said. "Some shoals feed on other shoals. Some feed only on the vegetation of the water's floor, but each shoal swims in accordance to where The School wants them to swim."

"Never underestimate the collective power of The School," Putto–Ciambue said.

"Do you believe Trident is powerful enough to control The School?" Putto–Vinci asked.

"Trident has never been seen by anyone in many movements," Putto–Ciambue said, "not The School and not The Collections. But they believe he still exists and that he holds their destiny and the destiny of Nereus in his hands. The belief in something that can't be seen or proven to exist is stronger than believing in that which can be seen. I haven't the wisdom to understand why that is, but if The School and The Collections believe Trident wants the ending of the pools and the Renaissites then they will act to try and make it happen."

Putto–Ciambue twisted his single hair. "We are up against a being that wields incredible and dangerous power just because it can not be proven he no longer lives somewhere within the Water–In–Between."

Putto–Vinci thought about this for a moment. "Monet–Rex speaks of Trident as if he exists also."

"Monet–Rex has the wisdom to know that to deny the existence of Trident is foolish. Monet–Rex interprets all things that are not pure color as having form and substance, even if you can't see it. It is the root of imagination."

Putto–Vinci, tilted his head, turning his ear to a new wave of song–sound coming from the shoals. "Their song has changed slightly."

"I noticed it also," Putto–Ciambue said. "They are communicating with someone inland."

"Of course, until now I lacked the imagination to know who," Putto–Vinci said, his wings suddenly flapping wildly lifting him into the air and away from the shore toward inland, leaving his friend Putto–Ciambue on the rock twirling his single chin hair questioningly.

#

Putto–Vinci entered the nave of The Haze flying at great speed. Putti were fleeing The Haze, their wings beating frantically as they exited the nave rushing past Putto–Vinci without acknowledging him. Going at breakneck speed down the shifting, wavering nave he entered the chamber of The Lightness. He collided with the Capitoline Wolf, who was staggering about, Putti hanging precariously from her teats. Then he was upon him, in the presence of Monet–Rex.

"Why?" Putto–Vinci said without the usual reverence for the almighty among them.

The core of The Lightness had shrunk and was decreasing more even as he spoke. "A movement in time is never intended to last for eternity Putto–Vinci."

The vibrant light–filled colors around The Lightness was swirling, revolving around the red core. It was collapsing into the core changing from hues of red to pink, to purple, to blue. "I did not mean to deceive you my faithful Putto."

"But what of the Renaissites and all the time they spent in reflection?"

"The Collections and The School have guaranteed me that their lives will not be in danger. They will emerge out of the pools and return to the lives they left behind. Their work is done."

"But what did it all achieve, the many movements of reflection?" Putto–Vinci lowered himself to the floor, He did what he had never done in the presence of The Lightness; standing on his two small legs and feet, his wings totally still.

"It was all meant to achieve nothing at all other than one movement building on another. Just as this movement built on the darkness, and the darkness built on what came before that." The voice of Monet–Rex began to fade, slowly becoming a whisper speaking out of an ever–dissolving core. "The Renaissites were a means to reflect on the evolution of color in all its manifestations and now it is time to use what was reflected upon to evolve to the rising movement."

"What movement is that?" Putto–Vinci asked forlornly.

"Substance and form in all its varieties," a voice said from behind him.

Putto–Vinci turned and there was Putto–Pablo.

"You and The Lightness conspired to bring about the end of the pools?" Putto–Vinci asked.

"The truce and declaration of a new understanding for the new movement. The Accord of The Museumatti, was written by me as the hand of Monet–Rex and signed by The School and all the city–states that make up The Collections under the ever–watchful eye of Trident." Putto–Pablo put his hand on Putto–Vinci's shoulder. "Do not despair my friend, every ending is just a beginning."

The core of The Lightness, and all the colors that surrounded it vanished and the Monet–Rex ceased to exist.

#

Under the sun Sacre, sitting beside a pool empty of a Renaissite with the gel dried to a murky brown around the marble, Putto–Vinci held the limp body of Putto–Ciambue in his short arms. He looked at the face of his friend and said, "what purpose did we serve, did any of this serve?"

"It's too soon to know that. Only future movements will be able to reflect on their own the significance of what we meant and what we achieved," Putto–Ciambue said, then he died.

Laying the lifeless body of Putto–Ciambue in an empty pool, with great effort Putto–Vinci rose into the air and flew over the lifeless palette, seeing the countless number of bodies of other Putti dead alongside the pools they had maintained for so long. Only when he reached the now solid structure of what was once The Haze did he stop. There at the entrance was a pool of water lilies with a large single stone on its banks that read: To The Memory of Monet–Rex, The Lightness.

The End

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