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How the Leviathans Got Their Colors

Legends of the creatures
By: Morgaln (2009 Legend Contest Winner)

In the beginning, all the Leviathans were equal. They were a uniform blue, the color of the ocean through which they swam. One young Leviathan, Ashante, who had seen the colorful fish that swam through the reefs in shallow waters, asked her mother: "Mother, tell me: why are the fish so colorful? And why are we just blue?" But her mother didn't have an answer to that. Ashante continued to swim and play, but never did she forget the question; and for years, the wish to have colors like the fish was resting in her heart.
     
      When Ashante was older, and no longer had to keep near her mother, she gathered her friends around her; serious Ulathin, who swam faster than any other and loved the rough sea; nimble Morobe, who liked to jump out on his friends from a hiding place; gentle Shelina, who often wallowed in the warm shallow water; and powerful Tolano, who could dive deeper than anyone else.
      "I have seen the fish, and the corals, and all the other creatures!" Ashante told her friends. "Only we are bland and uniform. I want to know why we are not colorful like the others. I will go search for Uluwuante, the God of the Sea, and I will ask him for colors. Will you go with me?" She looked at the other Leviathans, and one after the other, they agreed to accompany her.
      "But where will we go?" Morobe asked. "We don't know where Uluwuante lives. No one has seen him for a long time!" – "Someone has to know!" Ashante replied. "We will find him; I will not stop until I do."
     
      Ashante led the group, as they made their way across the ocean. Three days and three nights they swam. Then, on the fourth day, they came upon a turtle that swam slowly along, wrinkled neck stretched long.
      "Honored turtle," Ashante spoke. "It is well known, that your kind lives long and travels far. Perhaps you can help us in our quest. We are seeking the great god Uluwuante, to ask him why our kind has no colors."
      The turtle paused and looked at the Leviathans. "I do not know where you can find Uluwuante. He has been gone longer than I can remember. But there is someone who might know. My bones are weary; if I tell you, will you carry me for a while, so I can rest?"
      "I will gladly carry you, venerable one!" Gentle Shelina put in. "Your weight means nothing to me, and I would gladly help you, even should you not offer anything in return." The turtle dipped his head and Shelina dove under him, letting him rest on her back.
      "Now there is someone who is older than any other creature in the seas." The turtle told, while he was carried along. "At the deepest part of the ocean, in the Great Rift, the Kraken lives. He is as old as the ocean; if someone should know where Uluwuante has gone, it will be him."
      "We thank you, old one. We will ask the Kraken if he has seen Uluwuante." As the turtle continued his slow voyage, the Leviathans turned toward the Great Rift.
     
      For days, the Leviathans journeyed, until the water became dark below them, so dark that no eye could pierce it. And Tolano said: "Let me dive down; I will reach even the bottom of the Great Rift, where the Kraken lairs; and I will deliver our question to him!" The others agreed, knowing that Tolano of all of them would be the only one able to dive so deep. They wished him luck and watched him diving down, until they couldn't see him any longer.
      Long Tolano dove, watching the water around him grow darker and darker, until his eyes couldn't perceive any light at all. And still deeper he went, his powerful fins driving him always down, until a glimmer of light reached his eyes again. Down below him, he could see a red gleam, and he recognized the fire, that fills the center of the world, which broke through the thin crust at the bottom of the Great Rift. Nearer he went and he felt the water grow warmer. Then, something gripped him and he was brought around and looked into an eye almost as big as his head. A great beak opened, ready to devour him.
      "Hold, Great Kraken!" Tolano cried. "I am on a quest, and I am here to deliver a question to you!" The beak closed and a voice rumbled. "What is this question you have, little Leviathan? What would be important enough to risk your live visiting me?" – "I am trying to find Uluwuante!" Tolano answered. "To ask him, why we Leviathans do not have colors, like the fish! Can you tell me where to find the god?" – "I know not where he is." The Kraken told him, and his heart sank. "But I can tell you, how you can find him. If you are willing to pay my price." – "Name your price, oh Mighty One. If I can, I will pay it!" – "My life down here is a lonely one. Not many can dive down here, like you did. Will you return here, once in a while, and tell me tales of the world above?" – "Gladly I will, Great Kraken!" Tolano cried. "It will not be a chore, but a privilege to visit someone like you!" – "Then listen, little one. There is an instrument, the Serpent's Horn; if you blow it, it will alert Uluwuante, and perhaps he will come and listen to your question." – "Where might I find this horn?" – "The dolphins had it. Ask them!" - "Thank you, Mighty One. I will return here with stories, as I promised!" Tolano turned and swam up again, until at last he could see the surface again, and his friends which waited for his return. He told the story of the horn, and the group turned to the south, where they hoped to find the dolphins."
     
      After several days, Shelina lifted her head above the water and shouted: "There they are. We have found the dolphins!" The group swam on and soon reached the group. "Tell us, dolphins!" Ashante shouted. "The Kraken told us you have the Serpent's Horn! We need it to call Uluwuante! We have a question for him!" But the dolphins just laughed, and shouted. "We no longer have the horn. We would tell you where it is, but we have to go. If you can keep up, we might let you know." And off the fickle dolphins went, dashing through the water. "I will catch them!" Ulathin said. "No air-breather will ever outrace me!" his powerful tail lashed and he raced after the dolphins, chasing them for a day and a night, until he finally overtook their leader. The dolphins admitted their defeat and their leader told Ulathin about the horn. "We gave it to the seals of the southern islands. They requested it, and we were tired of keeping hold of the thing." Ulathin returned to the others and told them what he had learned.
     
      Again, the group set out and after seven days, they reached the southern islands, where the sun burned down on white sand. Soon, they found the seals, who made a large noise at the beach. "Greetings, seals!" Ashante called. "We have come far, on the search for the Serpent's Horn. It is our intent to call Uluwuante, and ask him a question." Great barking erupted among the seals, and their elder swam up to the Leviathans, sorrow on his face. "You are to late! The horn has been lost, dropped into the Green Sea. No one can reach it through the strangling fronds!" – "Will you show us where the Green sea is, elder?" Ashante asked. "We will try to reach the horn, though hopeless it might be!" – "Alas, I can spare none to show you the way. We are only few and we have to feed our young. And those that do not hunt have to watch the young, because danger lurks in the waters and on the island." – "I will watch your young!" Shelina declared. "No harm shall befall them while you are away, you have my word on it!" The elder looked at the Leviathan and he saw honesty in her eyes. "So it shall be; I will send two of my sons to guide you!"
     
      The group followed their guides, assuring Shelina that they would make haste in returning to her. For many hours they swam through the labyrinth of islands and soon were unable to retrace their way. Then the water began to turn green, and large patches of seaweed were swimming in the water. The guides stopped and one of them pointed down. "Look there! There fell the horn, forever out of reach." The Leviathans looked down and saw a large field of snakeweed, growing out of a hole in the ocean floor. "I will swim down there!" Morobe declared. "I am small and fast, I will evade the snakeweed and find the Serpent's Horn!" The others looked at him and nodded their consent, not willing to give up now they had come so far. So Morobe swam down and entered the snakeweed. Fast he swam and whenever a weed would try to snare his tail or limbs, he would be away before it could hold fast. Finally, he saw something blink between the fronds, and he snatched it out of the weeds. Quickly he turned and went up again, surfacing where his friends had been watching in concern. Proud, he showed them his prize, a large coiled horn of silver, that ended in a snake head with bright blue stones set as eyes. "It is the Serpent's Horn!" one of the guides declared in wonder. "Never would we have thought you able to return it!" – "Let us go back to Shelina!" Ashante said. "Then I will blow the horn!"
     
      And so the Leviathans returned, finding Shelina in the shallow waters, surrounded by the young seals who played with her and listened to her stories. She joined the others and wondered at the beauty of the horn. Then, Ashante set the Serpent's Horn at her mouth and blew into it, producing a loud, clear tone.
      At first, nothing happened and Ashante became disappointed. But then, the water began to swirl and a large snake-like head rose from the water, looking down at the five friends. "You called me, Ashante!" The head said, in a loud, deep voice, and the Leviathan wondered that it new her name. "What is your wish, my child?"
      Taking all her courage, Ashante stretched her long neck up and cried: "Great Uluwuante, I am here to ask you a question! On our travels, we have seen many creatures! The fish, the corals, all the creatures of the sea are colorful! Only we, the Leviathans, are just blue!" – "The Kraken has colorful spots on his body!" Tolano added. "The dolphins have white bellies!" Ulathin called. "The seals change their colors as they grow!" Shelina supplied. "Even the snakeweed is different shades of green!" Morobe told.
      "Oh greeat God of the Sea" Ashante said. "We beseech you; grant colors on the Leviathans, as you did on the others that live in the ocean!"
      Long, the head of water stayed silent, and Ashante began to worry if she had angered the great god. Then the watersnake bent over and lowered until it was only a hand's breadth away from her. "You have traveled far for this request, young Leviathan. I will grant your request! Return to your family!" The great head of water fell back into the ocean and vanished, as if it had never been there. "Thank you, mighty Uluwuante!" Ashante cried. "Thank you for hearing my request!"
     
      The group gathered, and Ashante said: "Let us return to our home. Uluwuante has promised us colors!" But Shelina replied: "I will not return with you. I will stay here at the island, living with the seals." Ashante looked at her friend, and nodded. "If that is your wish, I will not stop you." And so Shelina returned to the seals' island, and when she arrived there, her body had become a lighter tone and bright blue markings had appeared on her back, reminding the seals of the sun glittering on shallow water.
      "I will not return with you, either." Morobe announced. "I will go to the Green Sea and make my living there." Seeing that his mind was firm, the others agreed and said good bye to him. Morobe made his way through the island labyrinth, and as he entered the Green Sea, his body had taken on a green color with yellow webbings, perfect to hide in the patches of sea grass.
     
      The other three turned back, on the long way home. When they crossed the sea of the dolphins, a storm came up. "Swim on!" Ulathin urged the others. "I will stay here a while, where the waves are high and mighty!" The others bid him farewell and continued. Ulathin enjoyed the rough sea, and when he jumped from the water out of joy, yellow markings appeared on his body, resembling the lightning that flashed across the sky above him.
     
      When Ashante and Tolano reached the Great Rift, Tolano turned to his companion. "I gave the Kraken a promise, to return to him. I would not break that promise and so you will have to continue without me." Ashante dipped her had in farewell and watched him as he dove down.
      Dark markings appeared on his back while he sank, as if the dark water was coloring him.
     
      Alone now, Ashante went back to her family, glad to be home after the long journey. And on her return, she was greeted with great wonder, as bright blue markings had appeared on her dark blue back, marking her out among the others that were still only blue.