Sunday, February 3, 2013

~~STONE GATE: Chapter One--First Signs~~

          Ah, this is much better! So, where did I leave off? Oh, yes, I remember! The sinking of the Stone Ball. Now that I have reverted to literary form, perhaps I shall go into a bit more detail?
          I’ll begin with our return to the Island of Denerri.
          “Akalioa, dearest sister, might I take a moment of your time? I must speak with you about what occurred on the Stone Ball.” I knocked on her cabin door politely—as the only female on board, she was given a private room, while I shared one with several members of the crew, all of them were worried—and more than a little frightened—about what had occurred.
          She opened the door with her left hand, her right hand hidden behind her. I looked at the scar that circled her bare wrist, remembering the circle of metal that had branded her so long ago. “Why must you always be so formal?” she smiled up at me, her small trimmed brow frowning worriedly above soft grey eyes.
          “It is my nature, my dearest sister. I can neither apologize for it nor make excuses for it, as it is who I am.” Sighing, Akalioa pulled me inside her room, shutting it behind me and locking and re-locking it twice.
          “And neither can I apologize for what I did back there, nor can I make excuses for it.” Akalioa replied levelly, her eyes not meeting mine.
          Believing that a softer expression might make her more willing to talk, I softened my face and my shoulders lost their regal bearing, slouching comfortably. She raised an eyebrow at me; we were both adept from a life most strange at reading and writing body language. 
          But it worked nonetheless, and I asked her quietly, touching her shoulder and guiding her to sit on the bed while I took a seat upon the floor, “What happened?”
          She brought out the hand she had been hiding, pulling back her sleeve to reveal the bracelet. Frowning at the inconsequential thing, I looked at her curiously. “Am I supposed to know what you mean by showing me your bracelet?” I wonder aloud, feeling a mite bit stupid for having not guessed yet.
          “This! This stupid bracelet is why!” Akalioa hissed, shaking her wrist in the air, the beads trembling and clacking.
          “But it’s just a bracelet….” I put in, or attempt to.
          “’Just a bracelet’? This is not an ordinary bracelet, Kelree! This—this thing is evil! It has power, I’m telling you! Power!”
          I looked up at her, and wondered for a brief moment if Captain Arrisandos should have ordered Orpodah to watch her for insanity, instead of magic.
          “Did you just think I was insane?” she shrieked at me, and up came her foot, connecting with my chin and sending me soaring through the air to land sprawling in front of the door.
          Wiping a spot of blood from my lip where I had bitten it, I rolled to my feet warily, watching her. “Yes,” I say cautiously, placing one hand on the doorknob, just in case, “I’m worried about you, is all.”
          “That did not entirely sound formal, dear brother. Mayhap we need to talk about your continued employment on this vessel?” Akalioa stated, watching my eyes widen. This was getting too strange....
          “The Captain would never listen,” I told her, standing tall and hoping I was right. If that bracelet did have power—which she had pretty much proved when she’d kicked me across the room—then who knows what might happen? “He values my work onboard this ship. He values your input, too, Akalioa, but if you threaten me, he might not value it as much anymore….”
          The Captain had said as much to me earlier today. I had approached him with my worries after the murder, and he told me that he was more than happy to send my sister packing, even though I wished it wasn’t necessary.  I had told him that I would not be a part of her being fired, but he told me I didn’t have a choice. And so I told her what he had told me to say, even though I wished I could do anything but what Captain Arrisandos wanted me to.
          Unfortunately for him and perhaps fortunately for me, she called our bluff. “He is frightened of me, is he not? He is unwilling to face me directly, or send one of his crew who I am likely to harm, so he sent you, my only living blood relation. The one I have known since birth. The one who has looked after me for twenty-two years.”
          I feel the world…shift around me and then Akalioa is there, her hand around my throat, pinning me against the door. She looks up at me, her teeth bared, “Did he not think I would kill you?”
          Then her hand tightens, and….
~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~        ~       
          I know nothing for a long time.
          When I wake, Orpodah was standing over me. He wiped his grimy hands on his tunic, burping as he pats his large stomach. I try to hide my disgust as he helps me into a sitting position by grasping the collar of my shirt, staining it with his sweat and residue left over from too many doses of Powder. I did my best not to inhale until the scent had dissipated, but the fact that he was, well, him meant that it might take weeks to fully disappear.
          “You’re okay, elf boy. Your sister gave you a goodly throttle, though, kid. If I was you, I’d not wear a necklace for a couple o’ days.” Orpodah said, and left my room.
          I rolled out of bed, falling over. Well, he hadn’t expressly forbid any attempts at physical activity, so I was attempting. Also, if I didn’t get out of my room soon, I’d wish I had died of suffocation by my sister instead of suffocation by smell.
          Dragging myself to my feet, I staggered out of my room. Captain Arrisandos, watching the tide as we sailed out of port, whirled at the hacking coughs that came from me, and his jaw clenched at the tears that rolled down my cheeks. “Damn, boy, she did a number on you, didn’t she? I’m taking her to shore, and don’t you say nothing against it, Kelree. You are not fit to be out of bed—damn that Orpodah for not tying you to it! I should have known you’d attempt to be up and moving the instant you awoke. Now, come with me, Kelree. I might as well take you to the mess and have the cook make you some breakfast. That is, if you can swallow it.”
          I allowed the Captain to guide me down the steps into the mess, the crew gazing up at him. A good many of them rarely saw him anywhere but on deck—he only came below to berate someone, and those of the crew that had seen him before below decks gave a quick flinch.
          But they recovered quickly when they saw the state I was in.
          Liandros, one of my roommates, grabbed my under my arm and hauled me to the nearest bench space, its current occupants clearing the way with nary a complaint. A few of the other elves in the crew flashed to my side, bringing with them mugs of potions and medicines, every last one of them insisting that I drink them—we were too used to Orpodah’s remedies to not have created some of our own.
          “What happened to you?” Liandros asked, rubbing my shoulder, pulling aside my shirt collar to peek at the bruises that circled my neck.       
          I opened my mouth to speak, but all that came out was a whimper. Liandros dropped his blond head onto my shoulder affectionately, the elves’ hands tracing soothing patterns ‘cross my back. I had sailed with these men for years now, and every one of us would die for one another with scarcely a thought. And, yet, very rarely would one of us cry. We were the crew of Captain Arrisandos, and we were the best.
          And the best felt no pain.
          Yet, when I raised my head to meet the eyes of my friends, not one of them held anger in their eyes. Not a one of their eyes looked at me and told me I should be ashamed.
          That only made me feel worse.
          Liandros raised his head off my shoulder, and shoved a mug in front of me, ordering me to drink it fast and complain about the pain and the taste later. Eyeing him warily—he was the worst potion maker on board, aside from the Wizard/Healer Orpodah—I raised it to my lips obligingly and drank it down.
          Ten seconds later, after I felt that if my lips became any more pursed they’d rip the skin off my cheekbones, I spat out the sour mixture, waves of pain coursing through my body. I smacked my friend’s arm angrily, wiping the fresh tears from my eyes, and glaring at Shevre, the best potion maker, who put the next mug in front of me. Gulping, he backed off, taking the mug with him.
          We laughed then, Shevre gently smacking my shoulder and almost sending me flying over the table. He set the mug down in front of me and I obligingly drank it down, sighing and smacking my lips in pleasure as the sweet brew soothed the pain in my neck and in my heart, warming me deep inside.
          “Much better, thank you,” I say, glad to be able to talk at last. “Is there anything I can eat?”
          Shevre and Liandros gave me a good whack across the shoulders. “Not yet, elf boy,” Liandros told me, smiling, his scarred face crinkling. “You have a story to tell first.”
          I told them of what had happened—even though news of all of it had already spread throughout the ship—watching their faces darken. Shevre’s especially became angry, remembering all too well the girl my sister had been. Suffice to say, Liana, that Akalioa was a very busy girl back then, and Shevre had been mainly who she was busy with.
          “What happened to her?” Nevrette asks, leaning forward in his seat across the table from me, “She was one of the nicest people I ever knew; how could she change so swiftly?”
          I shrugged. “I wish I knew. I wish I knew.”
          A voice from the other end of the room calls softly, “I think I know.”
          A voice very few of us recognized.
          Shocked at the sound, we turned to face the one member of the crew that had not gathered to listen to my tale: Larind, the elven archer.
          Liandros and I walk through the crowd, and sit across from the reclusive archer. “What do you know?”
          Raising golden eyes from his small plate of untouched food, he whispers, soft as the wind: “I know what it is your sister found. I know how dangerous it is. And I also know the day you will die, Kelree. I know the day the world ends.”

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