Monday, August 2, 2010

Prisoner of Water: Chapter 1

Have you ever seen the sunrise over the majestic blue mountains of Djarmond, as clouds roll and blossom around peaks capped in eternal white veils of snow. There, where its thick glaciers slowly grind their way down the blue sides in perpetual rivers of ice. Where singing ice-swallows dodge and flit between the cracks of sunlight streaming across the thin air, always mindful of the ever hunting snow-hawk’s sudden appearances. Where the soft tinkling of icicles against each other and the hum of wind through the crags harmonize to add to the symphonic silence of the high mountains.

It was a morning such as this, high in the mountains before the sun had even thought to breathed colour into the sky, when the vision came. It was sudden, horrific. It rushed upon her with the fierce intensity of an avalanche, the images of burning, the taste of blood, and the screams. The horrible screams. Her old blue eyes snapped open.

She sighed, feeling the slow ebb of life and conscieceness leaking back into her prostrate frame. Even though she didn’t want to, she slowly sat up from the bed of various firs and hides covering the hard, granite slab which served as her bed. Rising, she pulled the richly embroidered mantel about her bony shoulders and walked through the cave, around its solitary bend, to the gaping entrance.

An icy breeze pushed by, sending a chilling gust down the passage. She felt as if she was still dreaming as she walked out, her feet disappearing in the deep, fresh snow. The old woman stood on the small precipice outside her cave, eyes adjusting to the low light before morning. She gazed longingly, lovingly, at the mighty mountains that rose all around her, as far as the eye could see, range upon snow dusted range until they disappeared in the churning masses of clouds. Small trails of blue smoke could be seen rising between many of the peaks, rising skyward as the one coming from beneath her own mountain home. But as she looked down on on the small houses and igloos below in concentric circles around the large, smoking fire-pit at the center of the village, the full weight and meaning of the vision suddenly enter her heart like an icy blade.

Her chest and shoulders felt heavy as if boulders were crushing them. Tears clouded and burned her deep blue eyes as they trickled down her ebony leathery skin. A time worn hand with thin fingers covered her mouth, as she sunk to the cold, white snow in front of the cave, trying to hold back the moan of anguish. As her old, thin frame shook with sobbing, she pulled her heavy woven mantle tighter around her, hugging it tightly as if her life depended on it.

“My, child. My poor, poor child. And today of all days. Today which should have been such a joyful one for you, Anai.” she said closing her eyes tightly, drawing strength from the mighty mountain, before feeling the warm glow of the sun’s first beam on her face as it barely peaked over the distant mountains. She rose, still feeling the weight, and walked back into the cave to prepare everything for what she saw.


The lone bed drifted in the pool of light afforded it by the single, white beam falling from the high vaulted arches above. Smoke and insence curled blue and purple as they danced with dust motes in the beam. The old figure upon the bed was nearly swallowed by the heavy sheets and enormous pillows all about him. His skin’s once gleaming black shine was now a dull, faded sickly shade of grey, stretched in layer upon layer of wrinkles over his fragile chest. After moments of not breathing at all, he gave a sharp rattling gasp, and started a fit of coughing again. The numerous faces surrounding the bed in the crowded darkness of the room seemed to sigh with frustration.

This same scene had been replaying all night long, the cessation of breath, the rattling gasp, and then the fit of coughing. All around, every eyes watched the thin, falling chest, waited with expectation to see when it would fall and not rise again. Plans in the minds of their makers charged the air with an agitated buzz.

“M-my daughter! Where is my daughter?!” he cried reaching forward.

“She is dead my lord.” said a tall, thin man stepping from the shadows, his black robes stretched tight over his tan frame. His head was shaved, prematurely in mourning for the old man before him.

“W-what? Dead? No. No! Not my Nepherkiza!! Not my Kiza! No! Not my baby girl! Tell me it isn’t true!! You lie! Get away from me!” he gasped, straining forward, feeble hands grabbing the black robe.

“Don’t you remember, my lord. You killed her yourself. You grew angry at her choice of husband.” the tan man said untangling himself from the old man but drawing dangerously close.

“No...” he moaned.

“The anger consumed you with flames of rage.” he whispered in the old man’s ear.

“No, no, no.” he whimpered.

“And then, you took the brand from the fire.” his eyes glowed with malice as he said it.

“No! Nepherkiza!” the old man said shaking his head.

“And as your rage burned.... so she burned as well.” the man spoke barely over a whisper.

“No. Please! Tell me it isn’t true!” the old man tried screaming hoarsly. “Tell me I didn’t kill my own daughter!”

“But it is, your majesty.” He said stepping back and motioning with his hand, “But, Kiza still lives.”

“What? My girl? Where is she? Bring her to me!” the old man was frantic, coughing hard as his dusty lungs were collapsing.

“Your daughter may have died, but she was reborn. Look, behold your youngest son’s daughter, the princess Kizanna.”

At his voice, the young girl walked in. She was dressed in long flowing white robes of purest linen, which made her glow in the light pooling around the bed. Her black hair was woven in hundreds of thin braids, tipped in gold. She walked and stood at the foot of his bed, her eyes shut tight. She could not have been eighteen yet.

“My girl! My Kiza! My girl!” the old man’s weathered features broke into a hysterical grin.

“See, she lives in your grandaughter.” spoke the man again.

“Yes, my daughter. My sweet girl.” the old clouded eyes growing heavy.

“But she can only remain this way, if you pass the power of your title to your youngest son. Ngoso must inherit, not his brothers.” spoke the man.

“Ngoso? But... but he’s the youngest... Ngetsu should become chief...” the old man was faltering.

“You will pass the scepter to Ngoso, otherwise, you will kill Kiza again!” and on cue, the girl was suddenly yanked to the floor by a thin rope tied beneath her gowns.

“No! No! Kiza! Alright! Ngoso will inherit!” the old man yelled, reaching desperately for the white bundle of cloth on the ground.

“Sign it. Your signet. And your blood.” he said, stepping forth with a piece of rolled up papyrus.

“Take it! Take whatever you want! Kiza! My girl! My girl.” the old man said as he pulled the long, thin flat pendant from his neck with strange symbols carved upon it, then running its sharp edge against his open palm, he let some of the tired, sick blood pool on it.

“Very good.” said the tall man as he took it and stamped the signet on the parchment twice.

“Kiza. My Kiza. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” he whimpered.

“Enough! I can’t-” the girl said rising, but the tall man grabbed her forcefully across the mounth and picked her up from the ground.

“No! Don’t hurt her! Not my daughter! Please! Not Kiza!” the old man wailed.

“But she’s already dead.” said the man as he plunged a dagger into the girl, crimson seeping across her white robe as her figure shook violently.

“Kiza! No!” the old man wailed as his breath came out in ragged spurts before he collapsed back on his pillows, clutching his chest with a pained expression.

A solitary, shaky rattling breathe escaped into the smoky air. And then it was done.

“Let me go!” the girl struggled and bit as she escaped the strong hands of the tall man.

“Is it finished?” he asked looking at the assistant standing at the bed, who nodded gravely. “Finally! I thought the thing would never die!”

No one made eye contact with the victorious one. The girl smoldered with rage and indignation beneath his cool gaze.

“Next time, dear, think twice before doing something stupid like that again. You have no idea how I wished my hand would have slipped ever so slightly and slid between your ribs instead of that sack of wine under the dress. Don’t ever disobey me again.”

“When I am queen-” she began fiercely.

“When you are queen it will be thanks to me! Don’t you forget it you little brat!” he spat as he raised his hand to strike her.

She did not turn. Did not cower. She stood firmly, eyes burning into his shallow soul. Daring him. Tempting him. Challenging him to try. In that gaze he knew he was beat. He knew if he lay a hand on her all his plans would be ruined. He would have to control himself... for now.

“Go to the wailing chamber and get dressed in more appropriate clothing. When the your father and uncles arrive you had better be wailing your heart out, or I’ll give you reason to wail.”

“Zuma, I’m not afraid of you. You know that, right.” she said cooly.

“Someday, you will learn to fear me, Kiza.” he spoke gleering.

“I believe its Princess Kiza now.” she said turning and walking away.

“Yes, you are my princess now. But someday soon, you’ll be my queen.” he spoke after she was out of earshot down the hallway.


On the distant mountain far from the brutal scene, the sun’s rays had barely crested the uppermost ranges, sending small shafts of golden light through the gaps, colouring sections of the glaciers gold. But on the western side, where the mountains were still wreathed in the shadows of night, a strange mist was rising along the coast. The mist rose slowly and unnaturally up the sides of the mountains. Faintly visible shapes moved rapidly within its stifling cover. At the lead of the moving shapes was a massive dark shadow that made all the others seems dull grey compared to its darkness. It came to the rough carved sign that showed two arrows, one pointing down with the word Tsuma underneath it, and the other pointing up with the word Djarmond. The figure looked towards the same mountains the old woman had earlier that morning and began walking in that direction, the sign knocked over and broken into the snow by the quick ascension of the hordes of dark shapes, always proceeded by the strange mist.

1 comment:

  1. Okay. Okay.
    *deep breath to recover*
    The deathbed scene was absolutely incredible. Jean, I'm seriously blown away. The content, pacing and delivery were all so carefully crafted, and yet effortless, like watching a scene play out in front of you.