Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prisoner of Water: Chapter 15

“Haha! I win again!” Josten yelled, pumping the air with his fist.

The crew’s jovial mood had left them as Josten had proceeded to win almost every round of the game with the coloured pebbles. At first it had been entertaining to watch him try figure out the game, and they had playfully begun placing bets. Now, after his twelfth straight win, Josten had acquired almost every one of their purses, belts, earrings, and necklaces.

“Um, Josten, could I have a word with you real quick?” Anai asked pulling him aside.

“Alright. Set up for the next round boys! I’m sure this time you’ll get lucky!” he called before she had taken him around the side of the large pile of cargo in the center of the ship.

“Josten! Haven’t you noticed that the crew is getting less and less friendly with each game you win? I’m telling you, I’m getting uneasy about these... traders.” Anai said, dropping her voice to a whisper, “I think they may be river bandits, or even pirates!”

“It’s okay, I’m planning on giving most of everything back after this last round. But with the little bit of money I keep we can stock up on supplies, and maybe even hire a descent boat to go back home once we’er done in Catamhar.” Josten said, turning to go, before calling back, “Oh, have you seen Tsinya?”

“No, wasn’t he with you?” Anai asked, before hearing the frantic pawing of the eland along with commotion further along the large deck. “Oh no, not that overgrown goat again! It’s probably trying to eat one of the sails again. Anyway, I’m sure Palo is fine. Just make sure that this is really the last game!”


Ismes and Manera had been running all day long through the dunelands. The sun burned brightly overhead, the ground felt on fire beneath their feet. As they sprinted with all their might, Manera felt her chest aching and tightening, the burning in her lungs getting worse. But she had to keep up with Ismes, who was running virtually blind next to the cliffs. By holding his hand, she pulled him back each time his course began bending towards the cliffs. He could also feel her grip tightening, as she struggled to fight her burning lungs. He knew it was getting harder and harder for her to breathe and wished he could stop for her to catch her breath. But the Tracers could be upon them any second, and she needed the medicine. So they kept running, as fast as they could. Ismes knew that if the Tracers thought that she kidnapped the princess then they would not stop to ask questions. If they were captured they would be knocked out and dragged back to face the Royal Inquisitors. The very thought of them gave speed to Ismes’ legs. And somewhere in the back of his mind, he tried to figure out who Manera reminded him of. It was on the tip of his tongue, he just could not place her. She was like a chameleon, changing constantly, slipping out of his mind’s reach.


I had wandered down below deck, hoping that it would be less turbulent down there, but soon found that the rocking of the flat bottomed ship on the river felt even worse in the cabins. As I was looking for a way up towards the deck, I stumbled upon a large door, with a massive iron key hanging from a peg next to it. Being a recorder, I had a natural curiosity, and so I took down the key and placed it in the door, hearing the iron slide into the keyhole and fall into place. I looked around, waiting to see if anyone had heard the loud noise. But no one came. I pushed against the rough, discoloured wood of the door, as it opened inward on a dark room. Instantly, a putrid, rotten and sour smell assaulted my nose. I squinted but could not see into the inky darkness. I pulled a candle from my robes and lit the wick on a torch in the hallway. Walking back into the darkness, I was not prepared for what I found. My candle dropped from my shaking hands, and the light went out leaving me in the dark.


Anai had managed to wrestle the eland away from the sails it had nibbled at again, and tied it securely to one of the rails. As she was doing it, a large dark shadow fell over her from behind. She turned and gave a small cry of surprise.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean ta startle ye.” Captain Shango said.

“Oh, no. It’s fine.” Anai said, giving the rope one last pull, “I’m sorry about our eland. It’s like it is all one big stomach on four legs.”

“Ah, it’s no trouble. A mighty mountain beast such as itself don’t know no better.” Captain Shango said, patting the eland’s soft red fur, “I suppose once yer done with yer vacation in Catamhar, you’ll be heading back south to the mountains?”

“Yes. We don’t plan to stay long.” Anai tried to be as vague as possible.

“Pity that your vacation should be cut so short.” the Captain spoke, looking out toward the rushing river.

“Yes, well, as my friend Josten realized, traveling in winter might be faster but its also much colder.” Anai said, pulling the mantle around her for good measure. “We’ll head back and come back in spring, before the summer rush.”

“Aye, thats a much better idea. Well, if yer heading back, we could most assuredly give ye passage back up to the mountains. Maybe the traders will be done by then with their feasts.” The Captain spoke, nonchalantly leaning on the rail which was too short for him to do comfortably.

“Well, thats very generous of you Captain but we don’t have anything to trade...” Anai began.

“I win again!” Josten called triumphantly. “Alright, one more round! This time I’m feeling unlucky, so you’e bound to win!”

“Well, it would allow my crew to earn back all of yer friend there’s winnings. I’ve never seen anyone take so naturally to Maja.” The Captain said, standing up again, shaking his head.

“Could you excuse me for one second.” Anai said walking towards the Maja players, “Josten! I thought we agreed that was the last game!”

“Um, Anai, could I talk to you for a second.” I said, having just come up from below deck.

“Well, I meant that this next game was going to be the next one. Promise, this is it.” Josten said, “Masksmith’s honor.”

I tugged urgently on both of their sleeves, “Anai, Josten. I really need to talk-”

“Josten! Think about what I told you! This is not a good idea!”

“Guys, I found something-”

“And what’s that?” asked the Captain walking up behind our small group of squabblers.

“Um.” I floundered, as everyone suddenly grew silent to listen. “Well, I, um...”

“Catanya Tower sighted!” the lookout called, much to my relief.

Everyone rushed to the edge of the ship, where we could see the flat expanse of rapidless water, the glass of Catanya, with the massive structure rising up in the mist of the river ahead. It was a conical tower, painted brilliant white with bright red, blue, green, and yellow geometric shapes running in patterns on it. It was covered with openings higher up, through which messenger birds were constantly flying, but which could also act as the perfect place from which archers could take aim.

“That ther is the Catanya Tower. We’ll reach it by midday.” the Captain said, “When we do, we’ll be at the port of Catamhar.”

“Anai! Josten!” I said pulling them aside and out of earshot, “We need to get off this ship, and fast!”

“I know, that’s what I keep telling Josten!” Anai said, giving him a fierce look. “I think they might be bandits, or even pirates.”

“No, you don’t understand. I found something down below deck!” I said, trying to steady myself as I spoke the words, “They’re not bandits or pirates.”

“Then what are they?” asked Josten.



Shekmet was impressed by the speed the two fugitives had been making. Further down the river, it would become too crowded by trading boats for the Tracers to pursue on salamander back with any speed, so they were following the two through the dunelands on foot. The footprints they followed told the story for them. The two were running along the cliff edge, the one leading seemed to be almost blind, as he was continually pulled back from the edge by the other, who was almost being dragged along, possibly because he was wounded, though there were no traces of blood. At the current pace, Shekmet and his Tracers would catch them right when they made it to the bridge of Djariviera. But that would be tricky with the local guards of Djariviera, who did not answer to the Lower Chief of Belotha, but the High Chief of Lagdjar. It was now a game of luck. Would the Tracers catch up with the two fugitives before they reached the bridge, or would they reach the bridge before them, slipping into the crowded town where their trail would almost definitely be lost. Shekmet increased his pace, his Tracers following suit.


“Come on Manera! We’re almost there!” Ismes yelled, squinting in the distance.

They had come out of the dunes and were jogging across the vast salt flat between the dunelands and Djariviera. At the end of the massive, sweltering white space, stood the two tall posts, which marked the gateway to Djariviera.

Manera was coughing, her own vision beginning to swim from the heat all around, and the fever which threatened to burn her up from the inside. She stumbled and fell to the ground, clutching her stomach as the coughing started getting worse, sharp pains stabbing through her chest and stomach. The coughing just continued and would not stop until she threw up the small amount of dried jerky she had eaten that morning.

“Manera!” Ismes said, turning and running to her, throwing her arm around his shoulder.

“I-I’m fine. I just... need... a moment. To catch my breath.” Manera said coughing more.

“It’s just ahead. We just have to go a little further. Come on! You can make it!” Ismes said adjusting to her weight on his shoulder as they set off.

His heart was pounding. Ahead he could see the posts of the town. He had friends there who could hide them and help them, if he could just get there. Manera had lost consciousness and so he carried the limp figure on his back as he kept running. They were half way across the salt flat, when suddenly he felt a chill run down his spine. Turning, he squinted back towards the dunes they had come from. He could just barely tell that a dark row of figures had materialized on top of the white dune, large clouds boiling from behind them and spreading inkly out across the blue sky.


“There they are! After them!” Shekmet called, as he and his Tracers descended the dune and began sprinting across the salt flat towards the lonely figure running with all his might towards the gateposts in the distance. Behind them the massive storm clouds that had risen from the distance were thundering dark and omnious overhead.

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