Authors: T C Southwell
Tags: #destiny, #kidnapping, #fate, #rescue, #blackmail, #weapon, #magic sword, #natural laws, #broken world, #sword of power
Published by T
C Southwell at Smashwords
2010 T C Southwell
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across the glistening ocean, where the dolphins played amongst the
waves a short distance away, their swift gambolling captivating her
eyes. Gripping the stone railing, she steadied herself as the tubby
ship rolled. The vessel was the product of Kieran's ingenuity and
Chanter's power. The golden-skinned unman had drawn it from the
bedrock of the beach they had left behind two weeks ago, forming it
into a ship to carry the chosen across the Wilden Sea. They had
only the Mujar's word that there even was another continent, for no
Trueman had dared to sail into the vast expanse of seemingly
Since the land
of her birth had dwindled into nothingness behind them, Talsy had
spent a lot of time alone on deck. The sea teemed with dolphins and
whales, which, she suspected, the Mujar's presence drew. The chosen
who had gathered on that distant beach, drawn from their towns and
villages by their seer's dreams, now filled the ship with their
scant number. There had been many more before the Hashon Jahar had
attacked their camp and slaughtered all but those who had hidden
amongst the rocks. Her life had been threatened, too, and she had
Chanter to thank for saving her.
Sheera, the old
seeress, had organised the girls to help with cooking and cleaning.
When Talsy had asked for something to do, Sheera had informed her
that her help was not required. As the First Chosen, it seemed her
status barred her from such menial tasks, in the opinion of the
seeress and her helpers. Her plight was one she shared with the
men, who, since the ship required no crew, spent their time lolling
about on the deck talking or playing idle games. Chanter spent most
of his time in the sea, playing with the dolphins that followed the
ship. Kieran had found a perch in the bows and only came down to
eat and sleep. That left Talsy with the company of the men and
boys, and she had soon become adept at their simple card and board
When the water
had run low a few days ago, Chanter had called forth a column of
fresh water from the sea to fill the barrels. Assured of an endless
supply of water, the chosen had even less to worry about. In fact,
they had no worries at all. The wind blew steadily and the sea
remained calm around the ship, although they passed storms and
rough seas in the distance. If not for the ungainliness of their
vessel, Talsy would have welcomed a minor storm to break the
monotony. Life under a Mujar's protection was simple to the point
up as a gull glided towards the ship, its narrow wings tilting in
the breeze. It drifted down to settle on the railing a few feet
from her and shuffle its wings into place. A lash of wind and the
sound of beating wings filled the air, the manifestation of Ashmar,
as the bird transformed into a golden-skinned, jet-haired Mujar.
Chanter leant against the railing and gazed out to sea. Talsy
wondered what it was like to become another creature and fly or
swim amongst them as one of their own. The transformation from
something so tiny to the size of a man defied logic. Where did all
the extra mass come from, and where did it go when he changed into
tried to explain it to her once. According to him, he was part of
this world and therefore could exchange parts of himself with it,
but it made little sense to her. Did he draw matter from the sea
and air to form his man-like body, and send it back when he shrank
into a gull? That was what he had told her, in essence, but she
found it hard to believe. During the voyage's long, lazy days, she
had a lot of time to ponder his mysteries, and had even plied him
with a few questions. Although he answered her most of the time,
his explanations often only confused her. How ironic, that he was
now willing to share with her the Mujar secrets Trueman scholars
had tried for centuries to learn, and she did not have the brains
to understand him.
approached the Mujar, and Talsy strained to catch the old seeress'
words before the wind blew them away. Shameless eavesdropping was
rife in such a boring environment. People were eager to hear any
smidgeon of gossip that might occupy their minds for a time.
Several other people listened, while trying to appear not to,
notably a pair of traders apparently engrossed in a board game.
Since Talsy had watched them play the same game every day for the
past two weeks, she doubted that they still found it terribly
The snatches of
conversation Talsy caught brought a spark of interest to relieve
her boredom, for the old woman informed Chanter that the ship's
food was running low. In their haste to leave the eastern continent
before more Hashon Jahar found them, they had brought only the
supplies that had been in the camp. The Black Riders' raid had
ruined most of the perishable items and driven away the flocks of
sheep and goats that would have been slaughtered and salted for the
voyage. An initial, enthusiastic attempt at fishing had died out
when the men had caught little or nothing with their makeshift
lures. Only one die-hard still trawled a lure behind the ship, but
nothing had even sniffed at it for days.
to Sheera, who went back to her chores below decks, where she ruled
supreme over pots of bubbling stew and the sweating girls who
stirred them. The Mujar had solved the problem of cooking on a
ship, especially with no wood to burn, with his usual casual ease.
He had simply caused round areas of the stone tables to become hot,
and pots were placed upon them around the clock for hot baths as
well as cooking. With a Mujar providing power for every necessity,
the voyage was almost luxurious in its comfort. Only those who
suffered from sea sickness had been miserable for the first few
Curious to find
out how he would solve this latest problem, Talsy went over to
stand beside Chanter. He glanced at her with a raised brow, his
eyes slits of brilliant silver-blue in their fringe of black
lashes, his golden skin burnished by the sun. The wind whipped his
raven hair and flattened the crest that sprouted above his fine
brows. The alien beauty of his sculpted features was just one of
the reasons that Truemen had so envied and hated Mujar in the past.
For Talsy, however, it was just another reason to admire him, and
she answered his enquiring look with a smile.
"So, what are
you going to do?"
"Will you make
fishes leap into the ship?" she quipped.
He shook his
head. "You know I can't."
gestured to the expanse of ocean before them. "I've turned the
ship. We'll find food in a couple of days."
"What if you
had to make the choice between letting these people starve and
killing a few fishes? What would you do?"
unconcerned. "That choice does not arise. If we don't find food
before we run out, I shall simply stop the ship and provide the
people with the means to catch fish. I shall not do any
"Will you never
kill anything? Even if you had to, for example, in order to protect
me? If there was absolutely no other way of saving me, would you
herself as he strode away, wishing the words unsaid. All she really
wanted to know was how much he cared about her, if at all. His
feelings remained a mystery, even after all this time, and she
longed to plumb the depths of his alien mind and find that he felt
more for her than duty. This was not the way to find out, however.
Such questions seemed only to offend him. A glance at the bows
found Kieran's dark eyes resting on her, a mocking smile on his
lips, as if he had guessed what was going on. The warrior, whom she
had met amongst the chosen, irritated her with his knowing looks
and black eyes that followed her too often. Shooting him a glare,
she turned away.
Two days later,
the ship approached what looked like a flat island. As it drew
nearer, Talsy noticed that the island undulated with the swells.
She recognised the frond-like growths that sprouted from the
creature's back, bright yellow streaked with pink, magenta and
blue, swirled with green and turquoise, and spotted with violet.
One of this world's vast food beasts that slumbered on the waves,
soaking up the sun. Its size was astounding, for it dwarfed the
whales as a shark would dwarf a minnow. This beast was more than
four miles across and vaguely star-shaped, its arms encompassing
sheltered grottos the size of small harbours.
It supported a
vast flock of flying creatures, graceful beasts with silken,
banner-like wings that seemed to defy gravity as they floated on
the wind. They came in a number of different species with a similar
structure, and seemed to have no purpose other than to practice
aerobatics and play in the sky. When they grew hungry, they landed
on the food beast’s back and ate the fronds. Many perched there in
chattering groups, watching the alien intruders with bright,
They honked and
cooed musically to each other, for all the world like a group of
old men discussing the weather. Some dived and frolicked in the sea
with sleek, seal-like beasts. Talsy wondered at their carefree
existence, lacking, as they did, the need to hunt and kill in order
to survive, or to breed vast numbers to replace those that others
killed and ate.
the ship alongside a massive arm, safe in the calm waters of its
embrace, and jumped down onto the smooth silky skin of the
multi-coloured beast. Plucking a frond, he sat down to eat it in
the shade of other tall fronds. Talsy started to climb down after
him, but Kieran grabbed her arm.
hell's going on?"
"We need food,
He glanced past
her at the vast beast. "That's edible?"
around at the chosen, who stood at the railing and gaped at the
mammoth animal instead of following Chanter's example. Shrugging
off Kieran's hold, she turned to Sheera.
"Tell them to
bring baskets to gather food."
Chanter, settled beside him with a smile and shared his frond when
he offered it to her. Like the land food beasts, the creature gave
off an enticing smell, and the frond tasted like the most delicious
sea food delicacy. Kieran was the first to summon the courage to
join them and sample the frond. It had the consistency of tough
bread, easily torn into bite-sized chunks and satisfyingly chewy,
but quick to soften and swallow. The flavour varied in different
parts of the frond, blander at the edges and tastier near the
centre, the different colours imbued with unique flavours.
rose, and he smiled, then beckoned to the people on the ship. The
bolder ones climbed down, leaving the timid chosen to watch them
with a mixture of trepidation and envy. The food gatherers walked
gingerly, as if expecting a violent reaction to their presence, but
the food beast slumbered, untroubled by their invasion. Their
exclamations of delight at the strange food's taste brought the
rest from the ship, and soon the chosen had all discovered the
miracle of the food beast.