Friday, August 27, 2010

Prisoner of Water: Chapter 12

“Far and long run the shores of Nyaami, round the land from east to west. Far abounding around it is the ocean, deep and blue and mysterious, whose depths hold secrets untold and creatures unseen. Bordered on three sides by the might ocean, on the final side sits the great and glorious insland sea. And two narrow strips that tie the land of Nyaami to the continent of Medea, are well guarded by nature herself. For the one, in miles and miles of desperate swamps, where things neither normal or natural breed in the mirky mixture of salt and fresh waters. The other, a ridge of mighty mountains, eternally snowcapped and eternally sentinal. So is the land cut off from the world, by ocean and sea and swamp and snowy mountain.

And these self same mountains, the range of Djarmond, run along the entire southern ridge of the circle of Nyaami. There, they rise in all their blue granite glory, veiled in white snow, with eternal glaciers slowly grinding down their sides. The mountains are truly majestic, a joy to behold and possibly one of the most scenic and beautiful locales in all of Nyaami. They rise so high that they are said to pierce the fermanent, which is why many of their peaks are constantly hidden above the wheeling white clouds that come from the warm southern seas to sprinkle snow on the slopes.

Running down the slopes are the glaciers, massive rivers of ice, tinged with the faintest blue of the water, the heavens, and the granite powered neath the scraping ice. Running throughout the glaciers are hundreds of spectacular tunnels in the ice, which honeycomb the entire glacial structure. Within are chambers with high blue ceilings dazzling with a million diamond sparkling and equally sharp iciles dangling over the heads of the unaware... How is that sounding so far?” I asked, pensively scratching my head with the end of my stylus as we kept walking through the majestic cavernous blue passages of the glacier.

“Sounds good.” Josten answered in a whisper, “But you might want to add a warning to any travelers who may read your text, that most of the passageways through the glaciers shouldn’t be trusted.”

“He’s right.” Anai said in a whispered tone, “I heard the old men of the village tell stories of children who would play in the glacier tunnels, and suddenly disappear into bottomless crevases. They said that the ghost of those children still roam these tunnels, looking for the way out.”

We all fell silent under the haunting echo of Anai’s words. Every step suddenly became delicate and filled with anxiety. I nearly jumped out of my skin as Josten suddenly burst into loud laughter.

“Hahaha! Anai, you got him good!” He said mirthilly, wiping a tear from his eye, “Don’t worry Tsinya, there aren’t any ghosts down here. Not yet anyway. As long as we keep to the path we have nothing to worry about. It’s safe.”

“And how exactly will we know the path?” I asked.

“Simple, see these stones on the side, they mark where the men have come through and tested the tunnel’s ice, making sure its safe. They do it every season, especially so travelers don’t have to worry.” Josten replied, pointing out the fire blackened stones.

“No, we actually do still have to worry. Without the influence of the Elders, the snow and ice will begin melting. We have to hurry if we want to come back and get through the glacier passages before they get too weak to support us.” Anai warned, the jovial mood evaporating under the reminder of the urgency of their mission.


The boat that Ismes and Setappep was on had caught a very fortunate, deep current that shot it out with great speed down the length of the river. This meant they would reach the town of Djariviera by the end of two days if they managed to keep to it. Ismes had slept only long enough to recover from the previous evening’s activities. He donned his dry clothes, taking the now dried papyrus from its place near the fire.

As he had suspected, the papyrus had been protected. It was standard that all high priority messages be protected so that even if part of the message was lost or destroyed, the important parts could still be recovered. The process was wetting and drying of the papyrus, which would reveal the words repeated along the edges and folds of the papyrus in a special reactive ink. Instantly, Ismes’ brows furrowed as he held the paper close to read it with his squinting burning eyes. He looked from the papyrus to the sleeping boy, who was coughing and breathing painfully, before rereading the words:

“Princess Kidnapped. Ransom Demanded. Only Clue: Puma Headed Dagger.”


Further up the river, Shekmet and his elite guard cruised down the river at an alarming speed, like dark shadows crouched down on the backs of the massive draconian creatures. No one but the Tracers new the secrets to taming the primeval giant salamanders of the Blue River, but with them, they could travel the fastest up or down any of the rivers that connected the cities and towns of Nyaami. A Tracer or two crouched low on the backs of each of the giant creatures, the black sashes passing through the mouths, acting as reigns to keep them above the water. Shekmet watched the skies expectantly, waiting for the sign from his snow hawk that their prey had been spotted.


“Wake up!” Ismes yelled, kicking the boy none too gently.

“Wha-whats the matter with you?” the boy coughed as he sat up, quickly pulling the semi dried robe tighter around him.

“You’ve got some explaining to do.” Ismes said, taking hold of his spear and scoring marks into the wood with each point he made. “It all makes sense now. You don’t act like a normal Tracer. You don’t follow all the Tracer rules. You didn’t even know about the flow!”

“Hey! I just forgot it, alright!” The boy responded growing angry and defensive.

“No real Tracer would ever forget something as important as that! And on top of all that, the bottom of that message that so conveniently tore off said that the one clue to the kidnapper of the princess is a puma headed dagger. Just like yours!” and here Ismes raised the spear and pointed it towards the boy’s quivering neck, “Now, you either explain yourself, or I’m taking us back to Belotha where the royal interrogators will soon squeeze the truth out of you.”

The boy’s eyes met Ismes’ with fierceness. The look seemed somehow familiar to Ismes. He blinked, trying hard to get the burning haze fro his eyes as he scanned through the many faces of his past, trying to remember where he had seen those eyes, and that look, before. Ismes suddenly realized that this was the first time he had seen the boy without either the painted eyes or the black smeared facepaint across his face. His eyes looked kinda pretty. Almost like a...

“Drop your cloak.” Ismes said as realization spread.

“What? Why?” Setappep said growing bright red. 

“I wasn’t asking.” Ismes said, raising the spear again.

“Fine.” Setappep said, slowing undoing the sash around his hips and drawing the cloak open like a curtain.

Underneath the cloak he wore a small tunic, fastened at the waist with a chord. From the chord hung an assortment of daggers and other long distance projectiles, all with the puma marking on them. But what was more plain than the numerous dangling weapons was the obvious way in which the still damp tunic clung to the body before him.

“So, mind telling me who you really are, miss?” Ismes said, lowering his spear slightly, “And this time the truth.”

The girl drew the cloak about her again and fastened the sash. She quickly turned, not looking at Ismes anymore, which frustrated him even more, as he was sure if he kept looking at her he could discern how he knew her. There was only one woman who stood out form his past, but she could not be her, he knew that for sure. The gang of thugs had taken care of that, that fateful day so long ago, when they had all still been so young.

“My name is Manera. My father is the real Setappep. He left our home weeks ago and I followed him to the city of Belotha. I, found out about his meetings with Princess Kiza, and that she planned to hire him. I lost track of him that night when he was suppose to meet you. So I just went to the tavern to see if I could pick up his trail there, but instead, he never showed up. So, I decided to pose as him, and help you, and hopefully find out where he is in the process.” She said as he looked away across the water.

“Why on earth would you want to take your father’s place?” Ismes asked slightly agitated by her answer.

“Do you have a father, Ismes?” She asked, looking at him briefly.

Ismes looked down, his face flushing slightly with anger. He stood, not making eye contact with her, turning and walking away to talk to the helmsmen, calling back as he did, “Get some sleep, you’ll need it by nightfall.”

Ismes walked to the helmsman and sat down before saying, “Well, sorry to back out on the promise to help you unload, old man, but we’ll be getting off the boat sooner than expected.”

“What are yew kids up to? Yew aint makin some kind o trouble ar ye?” He spat between his missing teeth, “Anyways, I don’t mind other folk’s bussiness, but if yer thinkin of jumpin ship afor paying me yew gots another thing comin to ya!”

“Don’t worry old man, we’ll pay you fair enough for the day’s ride.” Ismes replied.

“An, don’t forget the fire! Yew ow me fer dat un too!” the old man said, counting the amount of copper he was going to demand on his fingers.

“Don’t push your luck old timer.” Ismes said getting up to check on his supplies.


The party of Josten, Anai, and myself walked through the final section of the tunnel in the glacier and emerged outside on the lower part of the mountain. Beneath the glacial tunnel the mighty glacier continued, though it grew much wider and shallower, no longer marked by tunnels and more appearing as a massive field of ice. On either side of the glacier were massive blue granite stones lying upon each other at odd angles, which enabled us to climb down them.

“What strange trees.” I commented noting the green trees growing sporadically throughout the lower reaches of the mountain.

“They’re the Yikombe trees.” Josten replied, climbing up to one and slicing a piece of its green back back to reveal the deep redwood beneath.

“They grow all over the mountains.” Anai said, “There is even a grove up in Djarmond. They never get leaves on them for some reason. But maybe they don’t need green leaves, since their bark is already green.”

“But its the heartwood thats the real treat.” Josten said, slicing the piece up he had taken, offering it to the us two, “Its sweet like honey. Here, just chew on the bark.”

Anai refused her piece, which he simply placed into one of the packs. I tried it and was instantly amazed by the rush of sweetness over my senses. There are few words to describe the taste of the Yikombe heartwood. And the sweetness lasted for the entire extent of our trek down the lower mountain face, until we finally came to the end of the glacier, where it turned into a web of icy rivers and streams, here we decided to rest and camp for the night, next to the sound of rushing water, under the shadow of the massive blue granite boulders, with the pale moon in the heavens.

No comments:

Post a Comment