Read Ocean of Dust Online

Authors: Graeme Ing

Ocean of Dust

 

 

 

Ocean of Dust

 

by Graeme Ing

 

 

 

Ocean of Dust

(Smashwords Edition)

 

Copyright © 2012 by Graeme Ing

Cover art Copyright © 2012 by EDHGraphics

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places and incidents are either products of the author's
imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events,
locales, or persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this publication can be reproduced or
transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
without permission in writing from Graeme Ing.

 

First Edition

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please
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this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your
use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your
own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this
author.

 

Dedication

 

For my mother. For everything.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Lissa

Chapter 2: The Two Boys

Chapter 3: The Fair Maiden of Yamin

Chapter 4: The Two Girls

Chapter 5: The Physiker

Chapter 6: On the Command Deck

Chapter 7: Bandit

Chapter 8: Mysteries in the Hold

Chapter 9: The Dare

Chapter 10: The Symbol

Chapter 11: Us-imyan

Chapter 12: Thief

Chapter 13: Festival

Chapter 14: Blue Fire

Chapter 15: The Book

Chapter 16: The Navigator

Chapter 17: Jealousy

Chapter 18: The Flux Storm

Chapter 19: The End of Alice

Chapter 20: Secret Meetings

Chapter 21: Uprising

Chapter 22: Imprisoned

Chapter 23: Escape

Chapter 24: The Flux Channel

Chapter 25: Into the Forest

Chapter 26: Flight

Chapter 27: The Fair Maiden Again

Chapter 28: The Battle for Branda

Chapter 29: The Final Battle

Chapter 30: Dinner with the Captain

Endnotes

Chapter 1 - Lissa

 

A boy hurtled from a dim alley, crashed
headlong into Lissa, and they both tumbled awkwardly onto the hard
cobbled street. Fruit and vegetables bounced from her torn sack,
rolling into the mud and dung of the gutter.

"Idiot," he snarled, and picked himself up,
trying desperately to scrape the muck from his shirt.

Lissa surveyed the luxurious satin, the fine
weave of his red breeches and expensive leather shoes. The garish
signet ring on his middle finger looked ridiculous and overstated
on such a small hand.

"Ugh," he said, flicking gobbets of mud at
her. "It's ruined, you stupid child."

"I'm not a child. I'm fourteen Sunturns." He
looked the same age, but shorter and better fed. "You ran into me.
I took the worst of the fall, look."

She stood and thrust her grazed elbow into
his face, then fluffed her filthy, wet skirt. Her long hair lay
plastered to her cheeks, and she wrinkled her nose at the acrid
stench of dung stuck in it.

They both heard the unmistakable sound of
someone running toward them down the alley.

"I don't care about you. Out of my way." The
boy shoved her aside and sought help from an old man leading a cart
drawn by two oglons, its wheels creaking and splashing through
muddy potholes.

A giant, bearded man emerged, panting from
the alley. His clenched fists revealed thick, muscular arms.
Another, skinnier man darted into view from behind the cart. He
grabbed the boy and swung him around like a child's doll, sending
him hurtling to the ground. Lissa glanced at the cart-driver,
expecting the old man to stop his cart and rush to help, but he
simply whipped the oglons and hurried on down the street.

The bearded man joined his slim partner, and
they pinned the boy as he squirmed, kicked and screamed. The larger
man slapped him across the face, allowing the skinny man to uncoil
a length of rope.

Lissa's mouth sagged open and her heart
raced. What was going on? What did they want with him? They looked
more like thugs than town guards. Her parents had taught her to
recognize trouble and walk the other way. She should do that right
now, but how could she abandon the poor boy to these men. There was
no one else to help him. She swallowed hard and shouted, but her
voice sounded weak.

"Guards. Guards!"

"Shaddup," the huge man said. He sprang to
his feet and headed toward her.

She squealed and backed away. Her foot
squished on an orange fruit, throwing her off balance, and she
crumpled onto her discarded sack. The giant man loomed above her
and she lay there trembling, unable to move. Why hadn't she just
run away when she had the chance? His weathered face leered down at
her, and her eyes were drawn to a crescent scar that ran from his
lip to his ear. A massive paw of a hand grabbed her wrist and
yanked her up so hard that her shoulder popped and pain lanced down
her arm.

"Let me go, I haven't done anything," she
cried, trying to pull away, which made her shoulder hurt even more.
Her heart felt like it was about to explode from her chest. What
were they going to do to her?

"Put that boy out, quick," the giant man
said, glancing over his shoulder at his colleague. "I'll deal with
this girl."

He dragged her across to where the boy lay
tied up, rolling and straining at his bonds, grunting against a rag
wadded into his mouth.

Lissa's eyes widened and she fought to dig in
her heels, leaning back futilely against the strength of the
man.

"Help. Someone, help!" she screamed.

He backhanded her across the face. Her neck
bones crunched and her cheek burned. Her vision darkened for a
moment until she blinked and stared at the skinny man through her
tears. He removed a bottle from his belt, and poured its contents
onto a dirty rag. A pungent smell of medicine filled the air. With
one foot on the boy's chest, he pushed the rag onto the boy's nose.
In moments, the boy lay motionless.

Lissa clenched her fists to try to stop her
uncontrolled shaking. Tears dribbled down her face that still
burned. The men's next action was inevitable, but she gritted her
teeth and shook away the tears.

The large man snatched her other arm. His hot
breath smelled like stale beer and raw meat. She sank her teeth
into his hairy arm, retching at the metallic taste of blood. He
recoiled but kept his grip and grunted a laugh. His fingers dug
into her skin, making her clench every muscle in her body.

The skinny man pushed the dirty, sodden rag
over her mouth and nose. "She's trouble, this one," he said, with a
whiney voice.

The foul medicine made her gag. She kicked,
punched and tried to snatch her head away, but quickly grew tired.
It became difficult to think, and then impossible to focus on the
blurry faces seemingly dancing above her. She became distantly
aware that her limbs had stopped thrashing.
Mother
.
Must
get home to Mother.

Chapter 2 - The Two Boys

 

The chiming of a bell woke her, but she was
too groggy to open her eyes and simply counted the chimes. Mid
morning already. She'd been unconscious all night. Her head
throbbed and her mouth felt dry with a nasty, medicinal aftertaste.
Something hard was at her back. Even with closed eyes, she could
sense light and heat on her face and arms. Was she outside
somewhere?

To her right, wood scraped irregularly on
wood. The nearby clinking of coins was unmistakable. Where was she?
Two male voices sounded familiar, but she couldn't remember where
she had heard them. Her thoughts were sluggish and chaotic, and her
body lethargic, yet she had a strong sense of danger.

She opened her eyes, immediately raising her
hand against the fierce glare of both suns high in the sky. The
rich boy sat beside her. She exhaled heavily. This was all his
fault. Iron rings shackled his ankles, which were covered in dried
rivulets of blood, and a similar pair had been clamped around her
own. The metal lay heavy on her skin. Her stomach turned over.

She tugged against them, straining to pull
one foot free, crying out when the metal bit into her leg. Blood
oozed from her scraped skin and dribbled onto the floor.

Then she spotted the two thugs from the
street, standing with their backs to her. She gasped, and then her
hands flew to her mouth, praying they wouldn't come over. What did
they want with her? She had nothing to do with the rich boy. They
must know that.

"Don't draw their attention," the boy hissed.
"The rings are too tight, I already tried."

"Quiet," the bearded giant barked, but didn’t
turn around.

"We have to escape," she whispered.

"How do you suppose we do that, stupid, right
under their noses?"

She sighed. They sat upon a wooden dock at
which two small boats bobbed up and down. She peered over one
shoulder and observed the stack of crates on which they were both
leaning. There was a small gap further along. If they could create
a distraction, it might be possible to sneak away.

The two thugs talked to a third man, who sat
behind a makeshift desk. Thin, and clean-shaven, he wore a
loose-fitting blue shirt and matching pleated trousers that
together, looked like a uniform. A gaunt face and fat nose gave him
a miserable appearance. His black hair had been braided tightly
into a ponytail that fell to his waist. Lissa blinked. What kind of
man wore a ponytail? He counted coins into a coffer, pausing only
to scribble in a ledger on the desk before him.

Beyond the dock, she noticed a gently
rippling ocean, colored grey instead of the deep blue of the lake
at home. Her eyes widened. She'd always wanted to see the dust
ocean, and here it was. It seemed to go on forever. How far from
home had she been taken?

She studied the way the dust flowed ashore in
tiny waves. It didn't look wet; in fact, it didn't look like water
at all, but an extremely fine powder. The dust ocean, she'd heard
it called, but surely they hadn't meant that literally. How could
the ocean not have water? She shook her head. It was hard to think
straight.

Squinting against the glare of Eldrar, the
largest sun, she peered out at several large ships anchored
offshore. Tiny boats moved back and forth between them and the
dock, each rowed by two men, and piled so high with cargo she
wondered how they didn't sink.

"Is that the dust ocean?" she asked the
boy.

"Duh." He rolled his eyes.

She sucked in a breath. "Listen, I'm sorry
we're here and chained up, but you ran into me, remember? We're in
the same trouble, so don't you think we should work together? I'm
Lissa. What's your name?"

He swiveled to face her, his chains rattling,
and looked her up and down, like a buyer at an oglon market.

"I don't befriend commoners, especially
stupid girls."

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