Quickly she moved to the center of the clearing, ignoring her limp and the pain in her legs as best she could. She slid the pack from her back awkwardly, struggling to get the tightly bound ropes over her head. When she finally managed to pull it from herself she knelt carefully and began working on the ties that had held it tightly shut through her whole journey. The rough ropes, the sand still caught beneath her nails and ground into her skin pulled at her soft skin. She felt the tips of her fingers tear, the slick moisture of blood as she worked at the ties. She didn’t care.
She was so close.
Finally she felt the knots shift and the rope came free. She made quick work and unwrapped her prize, a carefully wrapped knife that could have been a short sword, and a large mallet fell unheeded to the side. The giant oyster she revealed was as wide across as she was broad and came to her shoulders as she knelt and pushed its flat side into the soft dirt in the center of the clearing. The green light blazed up as she twisted the oyster and wedged it into the ground with the hinge tilted toward the sky.
She took the remains of the makeshift bag that had been her pack and covered the oyster with it. When she was satisfied she looked for the knife and the mallet. She found them quickly, the light in the clearing from the phosphorescent plants around her making it easy. Once the knife, easily as long as the oyster and thick enough to withstand the punishment of prying through the oyster’s large shell, was unwrapped she stood before her offering. She stared at the oyster for a moment, then took a step forward. All of her hopes rested in this ugly creature. She had come this far. She would see it through.
She straddled the shell, using her weight and her legs to keep the shell from sliding away from her. She placed the tip of the dull, thick knife at the dead center of its hinge, forcing the blade down and into the beast as far as she could. When she was certain she brought the mallet up and then down on the butt of the knife’s handle, forcing it further in, tearing at the hinge at the back of the shell that allowed the creature inside to open and close its front.
With each stroke the knife drove a little deeper into the oyster. When it was almost to the hilt she dropped the hammer and gripped the knife’s handle in both her hands. Bracing herself and holding the oyster as still as she could she began to rock the knife back and forth, tearing at the hinges and twisting as she worked to slice through the creature’s muscles along the top of the shell with the tip of the long knife. When she was satisfied she withdrew the knife and adjusted the angle, forcing it to follow the curve of the shell along the bottom. She repeated the process; wriggling the knife back and forth until she was certain she had caught and torn the muscle of the creature away from the shell.
She slid from the oyster and knelt next to the hinge that her knife still pierced. She gripped the handle again and then twisted. A soft pop of the suction declared her success as the two halves of the giant shell separated. A sigh of release, soundless in the already oppressive silence of the island was all she allowed herself before she withdrew the knife and dropped it carelessly to the side. She slid her fingers into the hole that had once been a hinge and easily forced the two halves apart, revealing the soft, helpless creature that had been successfully separated from its shell.
She pressed eagerly into its flesh, feeling for the hardness that would betray the treasure she sought. She found it quickly. She tore at the flesh with her nails, careful not to scratch her prize as she forced it from the creature. As she dug through the layers she caught a dark glimmer. She renewed her efforts and was rewarded as a pearl the size of her head slipped from beneath the pale, sickly folds of the oyster’s innards and into her hands, glistening wetly in the moonlight.
It was black.
She stared at it, shock running through her.
She’d brought a black pearl to the Master of Eros.