Saturday, August 28, 2010

Prisoner of Water: Chapter 13

The night hung thick over the wide running Blue River as the boat flew down at dangerous speed. The rudderman gripped the wooden handle so tight his knuckles were turning white, maneuvering the craft around the large, dangerous rocks. The craft gained speed as it slid into a canyon, the high red walls rising high on each side. Sliding past the sides of the boats were the black slithering salamanders, water gushing up in waves from the rapid movements of their slimy bodies. They neared the boat, and two of the dark cloaked Tracers launched from their backs towards the craft.

“Incoming, left and right, almost at the stern!” yelled Manera as she stood up from behind a crate.

Ismes responded leaping off the top where he had been hiding, using the end of his spear like a bat, knocking both out of the air before they could even touch the ship. He squinted in the dull light of the moon, the spray from the river stinging his already burning eyes, further dulling his vision into complete blindness. On the sides of the canyon walls were two more salamanders, running as the Tracers rode them horizontally. The first one launched towards the ship.

“Ismes! Your left side!” Manera called while coughing.

Ismes responded by turning and swinging the spear again, but this time he felt the weight increase as the Tracer grabbed on and began sliding down the length of the shaft. Ismes only had a spit second to act, and quickly used the Tracer’s momentum and weight against himself, pole vaulting the Tracer into the water on the other side of the boat.

“Behind you!” Manera yelled, launching three daggers so quickly they barely had time to gleam in the moonlight, before pegging the Tracer solidly to the canyon wall by his mantle.

“Thanks.” Ismes said, as he tried to scan behind them while talking to the old man steering the boat. “Where are we now?”

“Well, I reckon we’re abot helf ways to Dj’viera.” he said, “Yew know, this whole chasin business is gonna cost ya extra!”

“You’ll get your money, old man. Exactly where are we. Tell me what you see. My eyes are getting worse from the poison.” he said before turning to Manera, “How are you holding up?”

“Fine.” she lied, glad he couldn’t see her face. “We’re surrounded by canyons on either side, and it looks like we’re just getting to the end of these rapids, the river is deepening and the large rocks are all but done. It looks like there is just one last big one up ahead.”

“Does it have a flat top with a smaller round rock on the top?” Ismes asked urgently.

“Yes.” Manera said, “What’s the plan?”

“Yeah, what are ya plannin on doin?” The old man chimed in. “It better involve payin me!”

“Well, neither of you are going to like it...” Ismes said, turning to the two.


Shekmet almost had them in his grasp. His men had caught up to the boat and were attempting to board it at that very moment. His salamander sped up as it neared the main pack pursuing the boat. Just at that moment, the top of the large pile of cargo burst into flames, bright orange light lighting up the red canyon walls which had looked blue in the moonlight. Shekmet’s men landed like shadows on the craft and he was close on their heels.

“P-please! Help!” the old man said as he was dragged forward by the two black robed figures.

“Where are they?” Shekmet asked, his tone deeper and more menacing than before.

“I-I dono! But he was a crazy un! Set fire to my cargo! I knew not to trust the likes o’ him!” The old man said shaking his fist. “An’ worse of all! He didn’t pay me!”

“Silence.” the word carried a tone of menace that silenced the old man instantly. “Now. If they aren’t here. Where are they?”

“Well, after he threw the torch on my cargo, he up an’ grabbed the other un an jumped in the water.” the old man said shaking and pointing towards the inky depths.

The shadow warriors around Shekmet were in the water before a command could be issued, sliding like black seals into the depths. As they moved through the depths, they tapped the tops of the gloves together, which brought the crystal tops to brilliant life, sending bright shafts of light into the dark depths of the river. They swam against the hard current close to the surface and dove deeper where the current slowed, scanning the river, its bottom and banks. There, where the swift river water gushed into the canyon walls, hundreds of dark passageways gaped in the sides under the water, while omnious bubbles rose from many of them. They had lost the two, for now.


Anai rose before the sun, walking along the blue boulders till she came to the edge of the cliffs. A nightmare had woken her from her sleep crying. Turning her back on the cliffs, she looked towards the mountains, and longed for her home so far away. The mountains were hidden by a thick cloud bank that had risen up over the peaks. She wished she could see the blue ridges, with their dusted white tops. She wished that she could be done with her training and be back home. She wished that things could just go back to the way they had been. But they would never be the same again. And as the overwhelming feeling of despair overtook her, she began to cry again.

I lay there, listening to her cry. And I felt so helpless. I wish Josten had been awake. He would know how to comfort her, what to say. After a few minutes, the crying stopped, and I sat up, seeing her walk towards us. I gave Josten a swift kick, and he snored before turning over and continuing his sleep. Anai sat down and began unpacking some food.

“Leave him. He’ll wake up with the sunlight. Here have some food and come with. Let me show you what we couldn’t see last night in the dark.” Anai said, rising and taking my hand and leading me to the cliff. “This is the Thousand-falls Cliff.”

I followed her up towards the cliff edge. What I saw there took my breathe away and I have yet to see anything as breathtaking as that morning on the cliff. Beneath our feet the blue granite of the mountains continued for a bit before falling away into a deep canyon. On the other side of the canyon were layers of red sandstone, and a red land lay ahead of us. And coming from the glacier was the thousands of streams and rivelets which all ended here at the cliff, plummeting into the gorge and feeding the white, gurgling waters below us.

The sun began to rise over this, turning all the water to gold and peach, as birds woke from their crags in the canyon and took the the skies, thousands of birds of all kinds, gilded in gold by the light. They rose up, their songs filling the air as the colors seeped into the world. She turned toward the mountain and closed her eyes, its peaks still clouded by the mists. I looked down, towards the canyon and thats when I saw them. A group of men tied a craft to a rocky ledge.

“Whose that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Probably traders. Wake Josten.” She said, her face suddenly harsh.

I did and Josten came quickly to see what was the matter. The men were walking from the bottom of the cliffs up towards the top. They saw us, and stopped. We drew back, our minds recalling the last group of strangers we had encountered. They started walking up the rough stairs carved in the side of the cliffs again.

“Alrighty everyone.” Josten said, walking back to the bags and quickly breaking up camp and tying things together. “Let’s be ready. Maybe they’re friendly. But if they’re not, we’ll have to make a run for it along the cliffs.”

“To where?” Anai asked, looking around.

“The swamps.” Josten replied after pausing. “Its a day away so hopefully we won’t have to, but its our only chance. The glacier is too steep, they’d catch us for sure. And there aren’t any other ways down into the river, other than jumping.”

“Um, guys.” I spoke, grabbing the last of the supplies, “They’re here...”


Ismes and Manera emerged from a small pool in the shade of a group of palm trees. They crawled up onto the sand, both coughing up water. Ismes forced himself to crawl up the sandy dune and looking out towards the river. His eyes were still burning and he could not make anything out. Manera joined him silently, no words needed for her to know he needed her help.

“I don’t see anything. It doesn’t look like they set out on foot. They must have followed into the tunnels.” Manera spoke intensely watching the side where she knew the river was.

“Good, they’ll be nice and lost in there for at least a while.” Ismes said, turning and rummaging through the sack he had taken with them from the ship.

“Which we could have been too! Its lucky we found our way out. Unless this isn’t the first time you used these tunnels.” Manera asked.

Ismes frowned, finding what he needed and threw the thick piece of meat into the water, the dark shape disappearing as he replied, “It’s not the first time. There was a time, a long time ago, when I had to use the tunnels. They were my salvation.”

“What happened?” Manera asked sensing the deeper story behind Ismes’ laconic words.

Ismes suddenly felt another shudder of familiarity at the tone she used, and knew he had heard that tone somewhere before, but after gathering his thoughts, continued, “You remember on the boat when you asked if I had a father, well, I don’t know. If I did he left before I ever met him. My step-uncle raised me. Well, he taught me at least. Taught me to get my own food if I wanted to eat. Taught me just because someone is saying kind words to you doesn’t mean they won’t turn around and hit you at any second. Taught me never to sleep soundly, especially when there is a drunk in your house. I ran away when I was nine.”

“Nine?” Manera asked, shocked, “You were nine when you left home?”

“I didn’t exactly just up and leave. I ran. Ran for my life. See I grew up fast. And part of that growing up meant that I realized the real danger I was in and knew I had to get away.” Ismes’ eyes grew distant as he threw more of the meat into the pool, “He was going to sell me to slavers in the Inland Seas. And when I ran, he said I was stealing from him and so he was going to kill me before he let me steal from him. I ran to the river, and found the tunnels, and escaped from him.”

As he spoke, suddenly the water began to boil as large bodies rose and thrashed through the tunnels, claws gleaming and jaws snapping as the large crocodiles fought for the food, driven into a blood frenzy by the raw meat. In the process they wounded each other and so the feed turned cannibal quickly.

“That should help to discourage the Tracers from following us. But we won’t be able to take the river. We’ll have to walk the rest of the way on foot.” Ismes spoke, trying to change the subject. “It will take almost a whole day at this pace.”

As he got up, took his position by feeling the sun on his face, and turned towards the south where he knew Djariviera was. But as he turned to go, he felt a hand on his shoulder, give a small squeeze as Manera spoke compassionately.

“Ismes, I’m sorry that you had to go through that. But in a way, I’m also glad. Because if you hadn’t, we would not have been able to escape. So, thank you.”

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