"Momma..." Turq began, then paused, chewing his lower lip for a minute. "Momma, how come everyone else is so much smarter than me? How come I'm such a...such a big dummy?"
Mari felt her heart break as Turq asked his question, and she hugged him tighter, burying her face in his messy cobalt hair and kissing the top of his head. Pulling back, she met his gaze, conjuring a smile with raw maternal will.
"Sweet one, what made you think you were a dummy?" she asked softly.
Turq eased back onto the bed and tucked his legs under himself. Drooping, he collected his hands into his lap and stared down at them. He started to speak, then paused, faltering a few times before he decided what to say.
"I was...um. You know how I got my special hammer from Grandfather's friend? When I went an' got mushrooms on south island?" Turq gestured to a greatmaul, hanging on display hooks on the wall. Sized perfectly for him, the head of the maul was worked in the shape of a manowar jellyfish bell, and water seemed to stream behind the bell like its tendrils, dissipating a short distance away. Mari had been bewildered when Turq came home with such an impressive artifact, and even more when he explained that an avatar of Istishia had granted it to him personally.
"Yes, Turquoise, it was a very special gift. Grandfather knows you're a very strong boy; he must be very excited to see the hero you'll grow up to be!"
Turq smiled for a moment, but as his attention turned back from the maul, his face fell again.
"Um, the thing is...well, I told Lexi and Sharpe about it," he explained, naming two children from the Headwater family who were close to his age. "Sharpe, he said— oops, sorry momma, they said it sounded really neat and they wanted to come see the hammer sometime. But...but then Lexi, she laughed at me!"
Turq's little hands bunched into fists and he reached up with one to wipe some tears off his cheek. He seemed to lose himself in thought for a moment, so after some time Mari prompted him gently,
"Why did Lexi laugh at you, Turq?"
"She said...she was laughing and she said that, um, that I wasn't gonna be a hero. Cause...cause heroes need to be make neat plans an' do stradd'gies and do 'plomacy and stuff. An' she said...she said I can't do stuff like that cause I'm not smart. And she's right momma!" Turq began crying again and buried his face in his mother's chest. She clung to him as tightly as he held to her, rocking him back and forth. Letting him cry, she began a soft song, one she'd sung to Turq a hundred times before.
sweetling, youngling, have no fear
for a gift you'll always be
let your heart be full of joy
and your steps be fast and free
live as you were born to live
be as you were born to be
like the falcon in the sky
or the dolphin in the sea
sweet one, small one, find your home
for it's there you'll learn to be
who you truly are in spirit
the hero I already see
By the time she was done singing, Turq tears had stopped, and he was quietly resting his head on his mother's shoulder. He looked up at her, seeming comforted but still uncertain.
"But...momma," he started, then paused before continuing. "Don't I still gotta learn how to do, uh...hero stuff? In order to be a hero? Learnin' book stuff is hard. If I can't do that...if I'm not smart enough..."
He trailed off, looking down again. Mari tucked a finger under his chin and guided his gaze back to hers.
"Sweetling, there will be some things that are hard for you. Everyone has hard things and easy things. Think about papa and me. Who's the best cook in all of Tidecrest?"
"YOU ARE!" Turq yelled enthusiastically, and Mari gave him a big grin.
"That's right. And your papa, he's a strong fighter and a good leader, right?" Turq nodded eagerly, splashing water from his hair everywhere. "But think about this - is papa a very good cook?"
Turq thought hard about the question, and came up with a memory of his father Cobalt Stormwave breaking several stoneware dishes and somehow managing to burn him self in unusual ways the one time Turq had seen him attempt to make breakfast for the family. He giggled.
"Papa burned his butt!"
"That's right! He's a mess in the kitchen, he doesn't know what to do! And me, I can do some things, but I'm not a strong fighter like your father, and I don't have the mind for people the way he does."
Turq nodded, thoughtful.
"Your papa and I, we help each other where we're not strong. When I cook papa doesn't burn his butt—" Turq giggled again,"— and when there's danger, papa fights so we don't get hurt."
Mari leaned forward and kissed Turq's forehead.
"And you, my little sea turtle, might need to find some friends who help you do the things you don't do well. But you're going to be amazing, and you'll help your friends with all your strength. And that will make you a hero."