Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Prisoner of Water: Chapter 16

The Drunken Queen slid through the mist over the calm stretch of water towards the stone pier that came out from the small island that the Catanya Tower stood on. The high tower was surrounded by a stone wall, with soldiers wearing brilliant blue sashes patrolling the top. The Captain spat and gave a curse as he saw the group waiting at wooden dock that extended from the stone pier.

A tall man with dark olive skin and dark blue thick, wooly hair stood surrounded by a company of the soldiers with the sashes who all carried long spears and oval shields. Another man with similarly blue hair stood next to him, a large tome in one hand, stylus in the other hand as he made marks on the page.

“The Dockmaster.” a nearby crewman whispered with dread.

“Shut yer mouth! Or I’ll shut it for ye!” the Captain called, “We don’t have anything to report to him and there’s nothing on board that he can claim against us. Lets just get this over with.”

No one noticed that we slipped to the side of the cargo as Josten whispered, “Alright, do we have everything packed on the eland?”

We rounded the corer and Anai answered, “Yes. Everything except your... winings.”

Josten shrugged and slung his heavy bag of loot from the maja game over his shoulder. “I’ll carry it then.”

Anai just shook her head but did not say anything.

“So the plan is simple. I told the Captain that once we land we will take a day or two to go see the sites around Catamhar, and then we’ll return in a day or so to go back to the Nyaakni Valley with them. But what he doesn't know is as soon as we can, we are going straight to the Catamharian Guard and telling them about the slavers.” Josten said, making sure everyone was onboard with the plan.

“I don’t see why we don’t just run now.” Anai spoke, looking towards the pier and the tower, “I don’t want to be on this ship any longer than we have to be.”

“Well, we could but it would be risky and not all of us might make it away. We have to convince them that we’re coming back so that they’ll let us go without suspicion.” Josten said resolutely.

Agreed we all walked back on deck and slipped into the mass of deck hands who were all watching the approach of the small boat with the officials on it. The guards were rowing, but kept their spears ready in the boat. Two other boats were accompanying the one, while several large catapults on the tower wall turned slowly, facing the boat. The tension that suddenly crackled in the air was unmistakable.


Shekmet’s men were in fast pursuit of the fugitives and were making headway. He had stopped as soon as he realized that they would catch up to the two for sure. He welcomed the shade and slight drizzle that the great cloud bank overhead brought, as it covered the entire white landscape with a mass of churning grey and black. A liminal smile almost touched his blistered lips, but then he heard his snow hawk give a perticular call from above, doing two loops in the raining air before flying towards the edge of the cliffs and then back to his shoulder.

“What?! No!” Shekmet’s eyes grew wide as he gave a loud series of whistles, and with a hefty throw of his arm, sent his hawk sailing towards the other Tracers.

The hawk winged in front of the group running across the salt plains, just as they were a stone’s throw away from Ismes carrying the dark bundle on his back, who was likewise a stone’s throw from the gate posts of the Djariviera bridge. But as the hawk flew over them, the Tracers suddenly changed course, running towards the nearby cliffs.

Ismes heard them change direction, and felt a sudden wave of relief sweep through him. He had been sure that the Tracers were about to catch him, as he had heard their breathing behind him. But as he realized that they had changed directions so suddenly, he felt fear crawl into the pit of his stomach. He slowed and looked back, just in time to see it.

From behind the farthest row of dunes on the otherside of the salt flat, through the heavy rain that had started falling, he saw the massive wall of water suddenly crest the dunes. The flash flood was a dull dirty grey mass moving along the salt flat, sweeping everything in its path away. And it was coming straight for Ismes.

As Ismes began sprinting with renewed vigor for the bridge, Shekmet made it to the lip of the canyon and leapt with all his might. Midair he withdrew his dagger and stabbed it into a cleft in the sandstone layers of the canyon, securing his position. He stood almost horizontally on the wall, watching as the wave washed over the dunelands.

Meanwhile, his men who made it to the farther edge of the canyon launched themselves off the edge into the water, while those not close enough withdrew their long, menacing dirks and stuck them with heavy force into the cracked surface of the ground, bracing themselves for the impact of the water.

Ismes ran with the water at his heels, coming to the bridge and quickly running across the numerous slats of wood. The bridge had a wooden crane like structure and as he was half way across, ropes running through the pulleys began moving quickly, and the bridge gave a low creak before it began to rise slowly. Ismes just managed to sling Manera around before he fell on his back and slide down the remaining slats, onto the ground. His arms, back, eyes, throat, everything ached. But he had done it. They were safe. They had made it to Djariviera, and escaped the Tracers. That was the last thought Ismes had before darkness swept over his vision.

Shekmet watched the bridge raise and knew that what could have been a simple mission would now become infinitely harder. Within the city of Djariviera they would be impossible to find. However, he still had his two men he had sent ahead just in case. There was still a chance of finishing up the mission before things got too far out of hand.


“Captain Shango.” the Deckmaster spoke, his nose high in the air.

“Yer Honor. So please to see ye again.” the Captain nearly spat the sarcastic words out as he held out his hand.

“I trust you won’t mind an inspection before you and your crew are permitted to come ashore.” the Deckmaster said, ignoring the proffered hand.

“Oh aye, you’ll find that we have nothing to hide.” the Captain said, brows furrowing with rage. “Just like last time when ye were so... careful to search every nook an cranny.”

“Well, we’ll see about not having anything to hide. You will remain here while we conduct the inspection.” the Deckmaster said, motioning towards the guards to remain and watch the crew, “And I’ll try my best to be as... careful as ever.”

As the Deckmaster was turning to go, with the note taker behind him, he suddenly saw our little group, “Ah! And what have we here? New recruits?”

“Onodje Ebthaga.” Anai said bowing.

The Deckmaster looked surprised before responding, “Wahye.”

“Your Honor, we are travelers from the Djarmond mountains. We purchased passage on the ship to reach Catamhar.” Josten said, extending his hand.

“Well, then, welcome to Catamhar.” the Deckmaster said, taking Josten’s arm, “Your party may go ashore.”

“What?!” The Captain objected.

“Your crew will remain on deck until our inspection is complete. Is that understood, Captain Shango?” the Deckmaster said cooly.

“Aye, sir.” The Captain said, before turning to us, “We’ll catch up with ye later. Just wait for us at the inn on the docks. We’ll sort all this nonsense out real quick like.”

“Actually, I have been meaning to send a scout to Djarmond, but if you would be so kind as to enlighten me on current happenings in the mountains, I would be delighted to host you at the Customs House tonight.” the Dockmaster said, a hint of a smile peaking at the corners of his mouth at being able to foil the Captain’s plans.

“That would be wonderful.” Anai said, bowing again.

“Splendid. I will join you as soon as I am finished with my inspection.” the Dockmaster replied before we followed one of the guards to a waiting boat, leading the eland onto it.

“Don’t yew lot worry. We’ll see each other again real soon. I’m sure of it.” Captain Shango’s parting words sounded more like a threat than anything else.


Kiza's eyes fluttered open, her head feeling heavy and pulsating with each pump of blood. Every single one of her joints trembled and ached, as she tried to raise her shaking hand to cover the light that was coming in through the cracks between the bamboo shutters over the doorway into the dark, stiffeling room. She sat up, and immediately regretted it as the sick, heavy feeling in her stomach dropped. She tried to remember what happened. How she got where she was.

Wrapping the blanket closer around her head to help with the pounding headache, she crawled over and peaked through the blinding shutters at the outside world. There were two men, dressed in black robes, with black turbans covering their heads. She recognized them. Tracers. They quickly slid to the side, vanishing for a second from guarding her door. The thought of running then entered her mind, but she quickly dismissed it.

Only a few moments later she saw the two reappear, this time following a third man, who must also have been a Tracer. She couldn’t tell because all three were dressed as normal villagers. Possibly to fool her into trusting them, since they thought she was still asleep. She crawled back into the bed, and just as she closed her eyes, the bamboo shutter door opened and in they walked.

“She is still sleeping. But won’t be for long. I will give her some more of the flower extract so she will not wake up.” the third man who had appeared spoke.

He approached her, holding a small vial, dabbing a cloth on it. As he held the cloth over her, she responded. Though her head was pounding and her joints ached, adreniline pumped through her veins as she jumped up, smashing the first Tracer into a wall, before rolling across the floor and kicking the second Tracer’s legs out from underneath her. She delivered a hard elbow to the first one, knocking him out completely, before advancing towards the second, who quickly slid into the shadows. But Kiza just stood her ground. Having lived in a palace with Zuma came with its advantages. She had eyes on the back of her head. The slightest tingle on her spine and she spun around, punching the second Tracer who had appeared behind her in the face so hard she flew into the side wall.

Kiza suddenly felt the nausea rise up, and clutched her stomach. Her skin felt much too moist for such a short ordeal. Placing her hand on her head, she felt the pounding return, reverberating in her ears, draining the strength from her bones. It was at this moment, that the old hand of the third man, bony and leathery, wrapped around her head with the damp cloth. The second the poppyoil touched her lips, her world went numb and black again.

1 comment:

  1. As a side note, I am extending my novel in a month challenge until the end of September, when school starts for me. Its more a goal of finishing this before my classes start, but even that may be a little hard. Oh well, perserverence! Eulalia!