First of all, I want to apologize to all my readers. After Prince's Companion reached its wonderful ending, for some reason, my imagination ceased to really work. I could barely write a word I was happy with and so that is the reason I withdrew. Only the constant reminder through you all putting me on your favorite author or story list kept me from completely giving up, so I want to thank you all especially for your patience and for your constant support.
One day, as I was driving along, mourning the fact that I couldn't write, this story idea popped into my head, not sure from where. I didn't really think much on it until I got out of bed in the morning and found that for once in what seemed like a great while, I realized that this story was not going to let me be! I was, of course, ecstatic, and proceeded to create multiple Word documents, trying to figure out the best way to go with this story, which takes place on a world different, but still similar to Doran with a people elf-like in appearance. There is war, magic, romance, adventure, sadness, death, and, of course, my favorite, victory. I haven't gotten too far in it because I want to share the story with you and hear your support in here.
Already, I have fallen in love with the characters from this first part of the first chapter. Please let me know what you think about the characters, their way of speaking, and the way I use Vinia's thoughts. Technical advice would be welcome, but also the feel of the story is what I'm also looking for. Once again, sorry for the major delay. I'm hoping that this is the first story to begin the breakthrough of the writer's block. So, enjoy!
Some helpful time measurements: There will be a different calender and timescale on this story. Here are a few guidelines so you can understand approximate time differences as this will become important later in the story.
Click - similar to our minute. Named for the emerald beetle that makes a continuous steady clicking sound that started the time-clock.
Gladys' Positions (Sun) - similar to our hour during the day. 15 Glorys' Positions during the day, 1st is rising, 15th setting. 75 clicks 1 Gladys' Position
Kumas' Positions (Moon) - similar to the hour, but during the night. 6 Kumas' Positions during the night, 1st is rising, 6th setting. 120 clicks 1 Kumas' Position
Gladys' Fall - similar to our day. Measured by 1 full rise and set of Gladys (the sun) and 1 full rise and set of Kumas (the moon). Also referred to as a Fall.
Mark - similar to our week. Consists of 8 Gladys' Falls. Called a mark because every eight Falls, the dark orange spot on Gladys appears.
Kumas' Phase - similar to our months. Consists of 10 Marks. Measured easily by the changes in Kumas' shape. Also referred to as a Phase
Moon - similar to our year. Consists of 5 Kumas' Phases. There are four different moons: red, blue, yellow, and white. This is similar to the measurement of time on Doran, as they belong to the same galaxy. This helps the scholars remember which Moon they are in.
Now, on with the story!
Chapter 1 Part 1
"Such unusual eyes, silver…did you see, Bryna?"
"I think they look more like a thunderstorm's cloud on a dark night." Gentle fingers touched at her side and it caused pain. A groan made it past her lips, but judging by the two girls' non-reaction, it wasn't the first time she had done so, and it was no wonder. She felt as if she had been bruised inside and out, and her belly felt as if it had been sliced open. Her throat was like dry sand and an ugly taste was beginning to make itself known as she pried her tongue from the roof of her mouth. She hadn't yet tried to open her eyes, but she had been conscious for at least one Gladys' position, she was sure.
Carefully, she was turned on her side and she felt cloth being pulled away from the burning area on her stomach. Had she been stabbed? "Nasty wound. It's lucky the river didn't infect it any or we'd have to deal with another fever," the one called Bryna murmured to her companion. "Hand me that washcloth, Styla. It's bleeding again." The girls both sounded very young, much younger than she had been when she had first been taught how to heal. It was uncommon for such youth to know of the dark sides of life.
"From where do you think she comes? It can't have been far or she would have drowned, unless she comes from the villages under the seas." Another set of cool hands bathed her face. How she would have loved to be able to move so that she could ask for some water, but it was as if she were paralyzed. Her body refused to carry out the simplest of commands. She was more helpless than a newborn babe. For some reason that bothered her.
Bryna finished wrapping her stomach wound. "I'm not sure, but she certainly doesn't come from anywhere I've been and you know how much my family's traveled. She's not from this continent at all. No one has silver eyes here. Now come, we'd better let her rest, and hopefully soon she'll come to so that Ma can ask her some questions."
"If she comes to," Styla muttered. The wounded girl listened as her footsteps faded away. "She's been in that same condition for a mark and a half."
Shocked, the wounded girl's brain whirled into action. She had been like this for twelve Falls? How long had she been fighting the seas before that? What Fall was it now? Or had it been so long it was another Phase? Most of all, who had done this to her? She struggled against the weakness that held her immobile and tried to focus her thoughts to help her regain a sense of self.
She was Vinia, Queen of the Western Continent. The thought flitted through her mind and she sighed soundlessly in relief. At least she hadn't lost her memory. Sometime last Moon, a gentleman had come through horrific circumstances and couldn't even remember his name or even his own face. For a moment, she had feared that she could have been in the same situation, but no, she remembered almost everything.
Of course, after she had been thrown, bound hand and foot, into the greedy waters of the Eastern Sea, everything had blended together. Time had ceased to be a concern, and all she had cared about were getting free of her bonds and somehow making it to land. Briefly, flickers of grey had touched at the sides of her barely conscious memory and she remembered strange fish keeping her buoyant, chewing at the ropes at her ankles and wrists, keeping her head above water. She remembered asking them what they were and getting no reply back except playful whines and melodies that had soothed her to sleep.
She remembered that her time in the water had soothed the shallow cut on her stomach, so that she drifted quite easily, trustingly in the gently sway of the water, kept afloat by the strange fish. Why had they let her live? Why had her murderers not remained to make sure she had truly been killed? How came she here after the fish had left her upon shore? Who were those who took care of her? Why would they take care of an obvious stranger to this land?
So many questions poured through her mind as she searched to find out exactly how hurt she was and how able she was to protect herself should her rescuers turn out to be her captors. So far, no harm had befallen her by their hands, but things could change so easily. She had just recently found that one out. Somewhere safe could easily turn into one's worse nightmare.
She felt her heart begin to speed up as she began to remember the terror of not knowing if she would survive another click and tried to focus on her breathing. The longer her rescuers thought her unconscious, the longer she would have to rest and begin to think of a means of escape should she have jumped from the boiling pot into the campfire. Instead, as she waited for someone to return to the room, she thought of home.
She had been perfectly safe in her Ma's garden, or at least she had believed she had been safe. She had gone there to do some quiet thinking and gather some herbs for medicinal mixes that were running low at the castle. Of all the things she had been trained in growing up, her ability to heal was her most prized talent. So, she had been picking starflowers that eased pain and green ache-herbs to keep down infection when suddenly she had realized she wasn't alone.
The only ones who would have disturbed her on the mountaintop were First Guard Trint or her maid and friend Amaana, and both of them would have called out to let her know they were coming. She couldn't quite remember what had happened next, only that she had begun to turn around to see if it was perhaps a servant coming to fetch her, when someone jumped her and a blow to her head had made her dizzy. Fortunately, she had remained conscious enough to shout for help, and she had seen one of the Third Guards respond.
Her hope had quickly died because the Third Guard had gone down without much of a fight and without any apparent weapon against him. Just suddenly, he was standing and then he was dead. Her captors had warned her against making any additional noises because they owned magics that would quickly destroy the castle. To prevent further deaths, she had instead become still and begun thinking of ways to escape. She wasn't completely helpless. Trint had often schooled her in the art of weaponry and hand-to-hand combat, knowing that she didn't often ask for a Guard to accompany her to the mountaintop gardens.
Escape became impossible two Gladys' positions later as her captor showed no signs of faltering under her weight and he had only stopped once to bind her wrists and ankles, once again warning her against any foolishness. For the first time she had been able to see her captor and he was a giant of a man, probably had part giant in his blood and his hands were so large they could snap her in half in a heartbeat. After that, she had ceased struggling at all.
Then, they had boarded a ship, sailed for a few Falls, her being given very little in the manner of food, as she had already assumed that they meant to kill her. They were just keeping her alive until that moment came, alive and so weak, she couldn't even stand. They sailed for a long time. Her captors kept her in a small dark room and so she lost track of the Falls and could only count the clicks and guess at the time. Not too long after she found she could barely muster enough energy to life her hand, they threw her overboard, in the middle of one of the seas, and she couldn't even swim.
Her body was wracked with shivers now, as suddenly she couldn't get warm. From the weight on top of her, she assumed there was a pile of blankets on top of her, but now that didn't matter. The waters in the sea had been so cold and the knowledge of how close she had come to death had her panicking even as she still couldn't move. They had wanted her dead, and they had nearly achieved their goal. By the grace of the gods, she still survived, but if she went back home now, she still wouldn't know who had let the captors know where she was and when so that they would attack with the minimum of hassle from Guards and other witnesses. No one knew about the garden except her Ma and Da, herself, Trint and Amaana, Biscuit, the cook, Leader Cursa, and a handful of Guards. Other than that, the entry to it was barred and kept secret from the rest of the world, which had made it the perfect sanctuary to her.
Heavier footsteps approached and she tried to make it look like she was still unconscious, but the low friendly chuckle that followed showed that she wasn't successful. "Dear, you don't have to pretend amongst us. We pulled you from the river; we're not likely to toss you back in." A warm hand touched her forehead and felt the shivers that wracked her body. "Bryna! I told you to watch the fire!" Some hot hard mounds were shoved under the blankets near her body. "Just rest easy, love. I've warmed some stones to keep your body from getting cold, and when Bryna gets here, she'll make the fire burn higher to keep the air warm. Never mind that it's too warm in here right now, it's your insides that need the warmth." There was the clatter of clay and the sound of liquid being poured. "Now, dear, do open your beautiful eyes and I'll try to get some hot broth down to warm those insides. I'm afraid to give you anything more solid. You were but skin and bones when we first found you."
Encouraged by the friendliness in the woman's voice, Vinia slowly opened her eyes, gratified to find that the light in the room was deeply muted. The woman, much larger than anyone from her kingdom and heavier belt, smiled at her. Her eyes were a deep blue and her hair a brilliant gold. A dimple flashed in one cheek as she helped Vinia into a more comfortable eating position. She was shocked to find that she was still so weak. "Thank you, ma'am, for all you've done so far."
"It's Dylia, miss, and don't you worry none. We were shocked to find the gift the River Kyla threw upon the shore not too far from our camp. You were a prettier fish than we usually catch and then my man Domse said 'Why Ma Dylia! That's no fish! It's a beautiful mermaid, and chilled to death.' And sure, we thought you were dead at first, with your white white skin and lips so blue and cold to the bone. If you hadn't begun to cough just then, I'm not sure you would have survived, and I told Domse, 'Pa Domse, we can't leave the poor dear to die upon our soil. Never mind that she's not from around here, we're friendly folks, and the gods brought her to us for a reason.' So Domse and the boys picked you right up and brought you to our little camp, where we proceeded to battle with death itself to keep you with us." All the time she was talking, Dylia had been ladling soup into Vinia's mouth, not giving her a chance to reply. As Dylia continued, a young, perhaps only ten moons, blond-haired girl swept in, knelt beside the dying fire, and began to encourage it into higher flames.
"And so we fought your fever, not uncommon in near drowning victims and bathed your pour thin body, trying to force liquids down your throat. Once, you opened your eyes, but they weren't quite here, but cloudy and I told Domse, 'Pa Domse, this one's special. Look at those eyes. We can't ignore the mark of the gods. Thank them for us not leaving her there to die.' You see, Domse is very wary of strangers, what with the war with the Western Continent and all. He tries to keep us all safe." As Vinia started at the mention of her home and the war, some soup spilled from the spoon and with a smile, Dylia wiped it up with a cloth. "Never you mind the messes, dear; you've been ill. It would be silly for you to be all ladylike right now. Anyways, I told Domse, 'Pa Domse, it matters none if she's from the front of the Western army, she's ill and weak and needs help.' With that, I muscled the man out of here and since then, I've only allowed Bryna, Styla and myself in here to tend to you. And I'm glad I have. You're a special one, aren't you, love." As Vinia began to answer, she found herself with another mouthful of the delicious broth, which indeed was warming her up. "No, no, dear, don't answer quite yet. I've put a nice sleeping drought into that broth so that you can sleep a full rest now that you've regained consciousness once. There'll be time for answers later. Now sleep, love, and when next you awaken, we'll try some stew. I'm sure you'll have quite the story for us later."
Dylia winked at her, and Vinia thought that perhaps the woman knew something most didn't and watched as Dylia turned at the door to the large camping dome to look at Bryna. "Now, Bryna, dear, watch the fire and don't leave the poor girl here alone until she's fast asleep. Then you can help me with the meals. Where is Styla? Styla!" Calling for the elusive Styla, Dylia swept from the room and Vinia dared to take a breath, still not feeling quite as tired as the sleeping drought should have made her.
Giggling from near the fire made her raise her eyebrows as she looked at Bryna, who looked like a miniature Dylia. She tried for a smile and was pleased that it didn't take much effort. Vinia took another deep breath and let it out, causing more giggling.
Bryna moved closer to the bed and smoothed some loose black strands from her forehead. "Ma can be rather much at times, lady." Her voice was soft and shy. "Your wound is looking better. I wonder you got a sword wound. Have you been at war?"
"No, Little Bryna. I can't remember much of what happened, but last I truly remember, I was picking flowers in my mother's garden," Vinia sighed. How she longed to be back in that garden! By now the castle would be frantic, First Guard Trint and all the Second Guards running around trying to find her. She hoped that at least they had found her would-be murderers and gotten rid of them. She wondered if sending them a message from here, with the troubles between the Western and Eastern Continents being as they were. "Could you tell me where I am?"
Bryna smiled. "You must be far from home, lady."
"Vinia, please, Bryna. Right now, I am not more a lady than you are."
Bryna curtsied. "Forgive me, Lady Vinia, but you looked a lady even lying near death on the shores of River Kyla. Your clothes had to be burned to chase away carried deaths, but they were beautiful and rich. So, I shall at least call you Lady Vinia."
Vinia nodded, feeling that there was no need to pursue the argument quite yet. Instead, she was quite grateful to the youth for tending to her. "Then, I will answer to that name, Bryna. Thank you."
Bryna shifted the blankets around on top of her, making sure she was well tucked in, so that her body would heat the covers and help keep her warm. "You are on the Eastern Continent, about three Falls' ride from West Karinka."
Hope lit in Vinia's eyes. "I have a friend who was in Karinka on business not too long ago. Perhaps, he's still there?" She felt fatigue begin to creep through her, a small warmth that spread from limb to limb.
Bryna, it seemed, was very perceptive. "Don't you worry, Lady Vinia. You're safe traveling with us and staying with us for as long as you like. Pa may seem intimidating, but he's harmless, especially to ladies. He wouldn't turn you away from our group, especially with Ma already your champion. I shall leave you now to rest, Lady, or Ma would have my head for keeping you from your rightful rest."
"I wouldn't want to be on your Ma's bad side, certainly," Vinia grinned.
An answering grin from Bryna was quickly followed by Ma's voice calling for her. "I'd better go, Lady Vinia. Please call out should you need anything or begin to feel ill. Styla is likely outside the door waiting for your needs." Again, she executed a curtsy that was the envy of Vinia, who had spent many many study hours learning how to properly perform one when she was a little older than Bryna. As the girl hurried from the room, Vinia sighed. Thank the gods that this camp family had been near when she had finally reached shore. Another family might have passed on by her, but Ma Dylia was a good person, and Vinia swore that she would find a way to pay the woman and her family back for helping her. But now, she was going to get some rest.
Please leave a review, so I know if I'm on the right track!