Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prisoner of Water: Chapter 11

The sun rose red over the city of Belotha, as the man in black robes and turban moved quickly and quietly. Shekmet seemed to slide into a shadow before he reappeared from another shadow high above where two walls met. He stood on top of the wall and scanned the the other walls throughout the city of Belotha. He watched as one by one his elite guard of Tracers appeared similarly as he had, until they were all standing like large black statues omniously overlooking the entire block of the city. He looked back to the great white wall that separated the rest of the city from the palace. Distantly, where he knew the salt waters of the sea washes up against the beautiful limestone mansions of the rich and nobles, guards would be patrolling every avenue of the perfectly manicured sector. But they would have found something by now if there was anything to find.

He and his elite group of Tracers were those left to comb the more seedy slice of the city that ran wedged between the merchants streets and the docks. Here the thousands of workers either employed by the nobles or merchants all lived in grimy, filthy quarters, tucked away where no one would see them or be bothered by their stench, the high limestone walls rising up omniously on either side of them, keeping their homes in a valley of perpetual shadow and smoke from their sordid cooking fires. But a night of stealthy searching had revealed nothing.

This meant that the kidnapper must have circumvented the gap and gone through the merchant sector to the docks. Shekmet was glad he had ordered the gates closed and patrolled, but knew if the kidnapper was clever enough to avoid the virtual trap that was the peasant quarter, then he would most likely have gotten out of the city one way or another.

Shekmet’s black eyes scanned the skies until he saw what he was looking for. There was a gleam and a sudden screech, before a massive white snow hawk landed on his shoulder. Shekmet made a clucking noise as he held it close, allowing it to nuzzle its beak against his rough, leathery skin, before it responded in a series of clicks as well. Shekmet replied quickly and launched the bird into the air, where it made several wide turns and disappeared in the white of the clouds soaring on the updrafts.

Looking towards his men he gave a whistling call, and they all melted back into their shadows. Anyone looking closely would scarcely have believed what they saw. The shadows of buildings and flapping cloth in the breeze and other people walking would bleed into each other for a moment, when the shadows would seem just a bit deeper, and the occasional glint of steel could be seen off a dagger as the Tracers moved across the city like a silent army of wraiths.

Shekmet stepped out of the darkness of a courtyard, where two shadows in the corners unfolded to reveal two of his men balancing like acrobats in the corners of the buildings. They held their positions on the wall while they flipped over and pointed with their black gloved hands at the small holes in the building’s wall. Shekmet only took a moment to launch himself at the first wall, then leap to the next, in quick succession, making his way to the top, where he planted his own daggers in to hold himself up. Removing a third dagger from his back, he gently slid it into the hole. It stuck out, pointing slightly up.

“So, we’ve found his trail.” Shekmet said, removing the dagger and noting the side it came out towards. “Towards the southern gate.”

“Another goes with him.” spoke one of the Tracers who had dropped down to the other side of the roofs, and pointed to a small indented circle in the dust. “He carries a spear. The same width and weight as a royal guard.”

“Thats how he knew to avoid the peasant sector.” Shekmet said, “Well, in that case, he’ll be able to get out of the gates easily. Quickly, to the docks!”


Josten and Anai made their way down the massive carved stairs, the village behind them. Neither spoke, there just were not words that could fill the space between them. Both knew that all their hopes for the future with each other were gone. Anai was the wise woman, or Magus, now. All hope was lost. But hope is a funny thing, because just when you are ready to relinquish it, life has a way of injecting it back in, often in unsuspecting ways. Which was the purpose I was to serve at this point.

“Hey! Wait for me!” I called running after them. “Hold on, sorry I had to get my books and scrolls before I could follow you.”

The two looked back at me as I stumbled down the stairway. The confusion on their faces could not be more apparent. Here I was, the pale boy from the middlelands, carrying books and scrolls and pens, trying not to trip over my scarves that seems to perpetually try to slide beneath my feet and trip me.

“Easy there, friend.” Josten said, catching me as I was about to trip and go head first down the stairway.

“Palo.” I said, offering my hand as I righted myself, “Thank you.”

“Josten.” He replied, grasping my arm firmly. “This is Anai, as you probably already heard.”

“Yes.” I said, bowing respectfully, “I am sorry for your loss.”

She sighed and spoke in a numb and apathetic tone, “Thank you. Now. Is there something we can do for you?”

“Well, as a matter of fact.” I said, readjusting the large, round crystal spectacles on my face, “Yes. I have to travel across Nyaami and record your culture here. I thought I might accompany you, seeing as your route will take you to the other end of the land.”

Anai looked to Josten, who shrugged, before responding, “We welcome your company.”

Josten sighed with relief. As much as he cared for Anai, when only two people travel on a road, it can be even more isolating and stressful than when just one goes alone, because the two are constantly interacting with just each other. And for him and Anai, all their interaction, all their conversation topics and memories, all wound their way back to the loss of that night. So Josten welcomed the addition to their group.

“So, Josten, where are we now?” I said, pulling out my parchment scroll and starting to scribble.

“Well, we’re technically still in the village.” Josten said, smiling as he grabbed my arm and pulled me back before I stepped off a ledge, “Careful. Down there, where those two boulders stand on either side of where the stairs end, thats the end of the village of Djarmond. Of course, all the mountains are named after the village too, the Djarmond Mountains.”

“I see. And the other villages?” I asked, pushing my glasses up.

“Hmmm. Well, they actually don’t really have names. Most just call their village, ‘the village’. Ours is named after the mountains because ours was the first village on the mountains.” Josten said.

“And do you know who founded it?” I asked, still writing.

“Well, actually, I’m not sure.” Josten said, scratching his head and smiling.

“My great great grandmother did.” Anai responded, looking towards the far off woods, “Grysta, I think, was her name. My grandmother was named after her, Grysa. But enough of that for now. We have to be silent once we go into the passes. The snow will be unsteady after the avalanche.”

I wrote as fast as I could as we continued down the massive stairway and past the boulders. There, we found two small paths leading down from the village into the massive mountain passes. As we walked, our movements sounded loud, and I tried to keep the crunch of my boots to a minimum. All around massive walls of ice and snow loomed over us, like predators just waiting to swoop down and carry us off.


The merchants were walking back and forth on the networks of docks and piers that spread out like spiderwebs across the river, boats sliding in and pushing out at an alarming rate, fueling the massive eternal market street within Belotha. Underneath one of the piers, the muddy water bubbled as two heads slowly emerged from the water completely covered in a thin layer of mud.

Setappep coughed and spit, as the fresh air stung and burned his lungs. He grabbed hold of a rough rope wound around the pier for hanging frog traps from, hoisting himself out of the water that threatened continually to splash back into his gasping mouth. His throat and lungs felt cool, yet burned whenever he took a breath.

“Come on, over here.” Ismes called as he slid across the water and grabbed the side of a large, flat bottomed boat, hoisting his muddy self out of the water, his eyes clenched tightly closed.

Setappep folllowed suit. As he got up on the deck, he wound his thick black sash around his head like a turban, the entire area across his face smeared oily black from the residue of the painted on eyes. He looked much more like a fierce Tracer. The two of them walked around the massive piles of merchandise and found the pilot at the back, readying to set off. All the while, Ismes continually rubbed at his eyes.

It only took a few gold coins from Ismes and a heavy glare from Setappep, who now looked the fiercest of the two, for the man to agree to take them as far as the town of Djariviera. The vessel set off, and the two dried themselves by the large fire. Ismes pulled his gaurd’s uniform off and hung it to dry over the fire, but Setappep only buried himself deeper in his black robes.

“You’ll attract stingflies and get sick if you don’t dry yourself off.” Ismes warned, his eyes looking red, as he continually blinked.

Setappep coughed before responding, “I’m getting sick already from your brilliant way out of the city. It won’t matter much if I catch fever too.”

“Alright. Suit yourself.” Ismes said, “We’ll get some medicine once we get to Djariviera. Until then, try not to over exert yourself.”

After a moment’s pause Setappep asked, “Ismes, whats wrong with your eyes?”

Ismes wiped at them again before responding, “The water beneath the deck. I swam through a patch where the air bubbles glowed red instead of yellow. When I popped in, it was like pepper being thrown in my eyes. They’ve been burning ever since and I can’t see well. I mean I can make out basic shapes, but everything is fuzzy. But I’m sure once we’re in Djariviera we can find a Panacea Shoppe. Don’t worry about me. I still think you should get out of those wet robes.”

The two grew silent as they continued their course down the massive Blue River, as it made it’s way south through the dunes of sand and high canyon walls. The owner provided them with some food, providing that they promised to help unload his wares at Djariviera, which Ismes reluctantly agreed to. He was worried. The sooner they could find who they were looking for, the sooner he could get back and find Kiza. He hoped the boy was right. He hoped that Kiza would be okay. Remembering the papyrus, he reached for his belt hanging over the fire, and pulled the papyrus out, spreading it over the flames to dry out too.


Shekmet stepped out of the shadow of a man leaning next to a wall by the dock, nearly scaring the man to death. He walked briskly to the empty pier jutting out across the water. His snow hawk landed on his shoulder as he looked down. In the darkness under the pier, one of his men dangled upside down with his legs wrapped tightly around the pillar that held the pier up. He held the worn rope up for inspection, slowly turning it. Shekmet plainly read the telltale signs that someone had grabbed hold of the rope, a black fibre stuck between the wood and rope, probably from a black sash similar to their own. But why down here? There were no other signs of ascending the pier. Which meant the person must have swam out to a boat.

His men appeared above, behind, on and even below the boats, all shaking their heads. Which meant the kidnapper was not on the boats either. They must have gotten on the boat which had left from this pier. It only took a few minutes for Shekmet to find the dock-keeper’s log and the ship’s destination. Djariviera, the Trading Town, their next target.

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