Sunday, August 22, 2010

Prisoner of Water: Chapter 7

The large pale moon hung over the mountain, illuminating the scene below. The invaders and defenders fought hard in the snowy slope that stretched between the village gate and the houses. Their weapons flashed in the light of the fires that were still burning around the slope when the village’s celebrations were interrupted by the invaders. High above the wall of ice loomed precariously, as the village wise woman strained to hold up the sliding glacier.

“Grandmother!” Anai yelled as she ran and threw her arms around her grandmother.

“There. There. Anai. You. Must. Go!” the old woman strained, as one of her braids burst, the hair quickly unraveling from the braid and shooting into long thin strands before settling on her back, her feet suddenly being pushed back in the snow as if by some heavy force. “You must! Go take care! Of the village! Go secure. The children!”

“Nya! The ones in the igloos!” Anai yelled as she turned and ran back, “Don’t worry grandmother, I’ll get them all into the houses farther back! They’ll be safe! I’ll come back I promise!”

The old woman closed her eyes once Anai was gone, “I know child. I know.”


“You’re nothing but a child!” Ismes said with contempt, standing to leave.

It was true, the youth before him was indeed more boy then man. His smooth features did not even hint at a beard yet, and if Ismes could guess the boy could not be fourteen yet. He wore a long black robe, with a black turban. His skin was tan and had clusters of eyes drawn around his own eyes, so that it was hard to tell which were his and which were painted. When he spoke, his voice was light, not even having cracked yet.

“Since when has that mattered? It is not my age that qualifies me, it is my abilities.” The boy said, vanishing into the shadows before reappearing in the shadows behind Ismes, a puma headed dagger ready at Ismes’ ribs.

“Ha! Impressive,” Ismes said, before motioning down with his eyes at his own spear which had turned faster than either could see, and was pointing behind him at the Tracer’s heart. “But not impressive enough.”

“Well.” The Tracer said, flustered, “I wasn’t hired for my killing abilities. I was hired as a tracker.”

“But you are suppose to be able to do both.” said Ismes raising an eyebrow, “Otherwise you would just be Trackers or Assassins.”

“Oh, trust me, I can and will deliver.” the boy said, his real eyes narrowing into fierce black slits, “But like I said, I was told that this job would be focused on tracking down someone.”

“Hmph. I didn’t say you had the job yet.” Ismes said, “I’m still unimpressed.”

“And I’m still waiting. I wasn’t hired by you and so you really don’t have any say.” The boy said, folding his arms smuggly, “Now, tell me again. Who are we tracking?”
Ismes sighed in resignation as he stood and held out his hand, “Alright, but let’s start off on the right foot. I am Ismes of Belotha, bodyguard to your, erm, client.”

“You can call me Setappep.” the boy said, extending a hand tattooed with a puma on the back, grasping Ismes’ arm.


As the battle continued to rage on above and in front of them, the village was forced to watch helplessly. Josten wished there was something he could do. He scanned the area around them illuminated by the large white moon overhead. Behind them was the mountain with the looming ice overhead. Beneath the looming ices was the igloos Anai was evacuating towards the larger houses further up the mountain, where the ice could not reach. Then past the igloos were the huddled villagers, the remains of the feasting tables and small fires that had been bonfires standing on either side of them. On one side the mountain steppe fell away to a sheer cliff, while on the other, a small ravine ran between their steppe and the taller mountain next to them. The ravine was deep but filled up with snow so it could barely be seen. Before Josten could think further, there was a sudden scream of horror next to him.

It was followed by a clutter of pieces of wood, pieces of a Snow Elder mask. Everyone looked up in shock as the thin, diamond-like dust blew down in the breeze all around them, what had once been their protector, their beloved Snow Elder. The defenders were stunned, and began falling back under the invaders’ assaults. Josten walked forward and picked up the pieces of broken mask, examining them, hearing the wail of despair behind him.

Soon there was another loud crash above them as another Snow Elders was torn to powdery snow by a blast from Swampe. The people began yelling, screaming, panicking. Josten did not know what he was doing. All he knew was that he was running towards Anai’s grandmother and fell before her on his knees, looking up in her grey blue eye.

“J-josten.” she strained.

“Yes.” his voice sounded small.

“Will you. Will you take. Good care. Of. Anai?” she spoke the words as tears came from her eyes.

“Y-yes. I will!” he said resolutely, before he winced as he heard another explosion from the sky and the wail grew louder.

“Good.” she sighed as she exhaled slowly, the mountain side cracking more.

“What is that suppose to mean?!” Josten found himself yelling before he realized it, “Are you just going to give up like that? On us? On Anai?”

“Hmmm. Your spirit. Is young. And strong.” the old woman smiled, “You two. Would have been. Happy. Together.”

“No! Don’t say that!” Josten said, realizing what she meant, “You won’t die today! Not as long as I can do anything!”

He turned and ran back towards the villagers, his lungs burning under the strain of the thin, iced mountain air. His eyes hurt from the glare of the moon on the snow, each of his muscles and joints called out in protest as he demanded more from them. But it did not matter. He had to force them to respond and force himself to smile as he called to the standing and wailing villagers,

“Djarmond! Djarmond! Stop crying! Stop despairing! We can still win this day! Do as I do!”

Josten reached down and pressed a snow ball together as he has done since childhood. He quickly formed it into the solid, hard as a stone, orb and ran towards the advancing invaders. With a well wound throw he sent the rock-hard ball straight into the face of a nearby invader, nocking him clear off his feet. It only took the people of the mountains a second before they joined in. Lifetimes spent perfecting the art of making and throwing a snowball all lent themselves to the small army suddenly creating masses of ammunition and turning the normally peaceful villagers into fighting machines.

“There, keep up the volleys!” Josten directed them, jumping and hooting in victory, even though his body protested at every move, “Thats it! Now, increase towards their left side, decrease the volleys on their right!”

The villagers continued to follow Josten’s directions as more and more masks and snow fell from above them. But somehow by being spurred into action, they hardly registered the fact that the Elders were falling from the sky. But Josten was painfully conscious that only a handful remained. If they all fell before his plan worked there would be no one to stand against Swampe.


The two slid through the street, making their way through the loud merchants yelling at the top of their lungs while they held their goods up into the air. The thousands of feet running along the wooden boards that paved the bottom of the streets echoed around the tall limestone facaded buildings. Most were poorly constructed wooden structures hidden behind false limestone faces meant to impress. Ismes and the boy Setappep made their way to the large city gates, two wooden portcullises slowly lowering in place as they arrived.

“This isn’t right. Its not yet an hour after moonrise. Why have they already closed the gates?” Ismes said walking swiftly to the guards at the gate.

He drew his cape around him, and swept his hood over his face. He did not want to be recognized slinking around outside the palace at night. As he approached the guards did not stand to attention as they normally would have. Instead they eyed him suspiciously, before continuing their conversation.

“Excuse me, sirs.” He said, hobbling and hunching over as he went, “Could you spare a copper piece for an old man?”

“Get lost you old fool! We’re guarding here!” the one called, the other responding with a deep, lusty laugh as if the first guard had told an extremely funny joke when he said that. “Hey! Pass the bottle back here, and stop laughing like an idjit!”

“I’m sorry to bother ye, sirs. No disrespect intended. You obviously have to guard the gateway.” Ismes said, still hunched over.

“Thats right! Its a very important job!” the soldier slurred.

“Indeed?” Ismes asked.

“Yeah! We have to make sure no one escapes from the city tonight. All the exits have been ordered shut and guarded. Because-” but he got no further as a third, much more sober guard arrived and smacked him with the end of his spear.

“Stop your blathering you idiot! And you! Old man! Get lost if you know whats good for you! Some of us could be in bed right now sleeping, and have to be out here to guard these stupid gates because of the likes of you, so you’re on thin ice as is!”

“Beggin your pardon, sir.” Ismes said as he backed away, hobbling and bowing in his stooped form as he did.

Once he was around the corner, he quickly found Setappep who immeditaly asked, “Whats wrong? Why are the gates shut?”

“Shh. I don’t know.” He said, keeping his hood down, “But whatever it is, we have to move fast, look, another column of soldiers is arriving to reinforce the gate. We have to get to the southern gates before they are reinforced too!”

“But the streets are too crowded!” Setappep whispered.

“Then we won’t use the streets.” Ismes answered, “Follow me.”

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