Prologue:

Skotay

          Nulvac was one of the smaller floating cities.  There were literally thousands of them on Stekaiya, all inhabited by the Farad'n*.  Originally refuge from the rising Oceans, the Faradi had since become quite accustomed to their buoyant homes.

          Children swam in the channel between the city's main body and the first of the three surrounding rings, underneath the watchful eye of their mother, who was performing a transaction in the marketplace.

          Ships of all shapes and sizes were docked there, from small coracles to huge military ships of the line.  Most were of medium size, such as one rather non-descript Gunboat, with the rather presumptuous name of Banshee painted on the side in bold black letters.

          The children laughed as they swam, playing one of the numerous games that children always seemed to develop.

          Ulaist* Kazukai watched from the prow of the Banshee.  He was a young man of middling size, about nineteen years old and standing at just under four cubits in height.  His black hair hung about his head, like spun obsidian, though unstyled and disarrayed.

His blue eyes, ice-like in more ways than one, swept over the harbor.

          A shadow appeared in the water, unnoticed by the children and their mother, but not lost upon Ulaist. 

He loosened the ivory knife at his waist in its sheath, preparing to dive into the water, should the need arise.  His katana was below deck, useless to him at the moment.

          A pair of dorsal fins passed just beneath the water, as a huge mass moved beneath the surface.  Ulaist's eyes narrowed, he was almost sure of what he had only suspected a moment before.

          A gondola passed into view, obscuring the fish from view as it passed above it.

          "Ulaist," Eddie, his partner said, "You going to be coming city-side now or later?"

          "Later, Eddie," he said to the older man, not taking his eyes from the ripple indicating the massive creature beneath the waves.

          "Suit yourself, kid.  I'm going to go stock up on supplies, check position, then find a bar or something.  I'll meet you back here in a half-watch."

          "Four hours.   That's fine," he said.

          "Later, 'Qasov,'" he said, using the younger man's preferred alias.

          He responded with a disinterested "mm."

          He heard his friend and "boss" walk away.

          Ulaist's webbed feet flexed as he prepared to jump into the water.  He wore no shoes, like most sailors did, though the oil-cloth jacket, trousers, and shirt did wonders, as did the glove-suit he wore beneath them, to keep his body-heat in during long dives.

          He placed the knife in his teeth, and leapt off the ship's prow.  Several people, having seen his jump, and the placement of the wicked-looking knife between his teeth watched, one or two thought to raise alarm.

          When he landed in the water, he moved as quickly as he could to a point between the large fish and the children.

          It was a Skotay*, a massive predatory fish, at least twelve cubits long, and having two dorsal fins, as well as many more rows of teeth.  It could move amazingly fast, at speeds of at least twenty knots for short bursts.

          Ulaist swam as fast as he could, coming up on the fish's side, latching onto one dorsal fin, and stabbing it in the gills.

          The Skotay rose to the surface, dragging Ulaist with him, and the crowd city-side jumped back in surprise, the mother rushing forward to call her children from the water, as he began twisting the knife, looking for some sort of vital organ.

          He jerked the knife out, then stabbed again, this time finding the soft jelly of the sea-monster's eye.  He twisted, looking for it's brain, but that was buried to deep. 

It rolled, beginning to drag him down, six cubits…ten…fourteen…

twenty…twenty-five…twenty eight.  But he continued hacking at it with the knife, until he severed the vertebrae from the skull, causing the fish to float upwards.

          Exhausted, Ulaist allowed himself to be carried upward with it.

          He reached the surface, finally, and began gasping for breath, and swam for the ladder, leading up to the market-place that looked out upon the marina.

          He fell upon the tiled ground, and began breathing deeply the sweet air.

          A few people in the crowd began applauding, several dispersed, but most simply regarded him with amazed looks.

          "Thank you," the mother said.

          "Don't mention it," Ulaist said, pulling himself to his feet, "I do it for a living."

          She regarded him for a moment.  Then smiled.

          "What's your name, young man?"

          "Qasov," he said, turning to walk away.

*Farad'n (Fur-ahd-ehn):  A human-like race dwelling in floating cities on the world of Stekaiya.  They are indistinguishable from normal humans save for a wider range of hair, eye, and skin colorings.  The former two including all colors of the spectrum.

*Ulaist (Oo-līst)

*Skotay (Skō-tā):  Centihlat for "Large Fish of Death" (skot: Large fish, tay: Death)

Author's notes:  Probably my most ambitious project to date, "Still Waters" is going to be a novel-length piece, if all goes well.  The world is somewhere along the lines of "Final Fantasy" + "The Lazarus Effect" (I'm assuming you know what the former is, the later is a book by Frank Herbert, and a damn good one, as well.)

It is going to center around Ulaist "Qasov" Kazukai, Pariah in his mind, and son of two races, as well as the small cabal of people he eventually gathers around himself.

I'm hoping to make things clearer as the Series/Novel progresses (also, there is no need to worry, later chapters will be longer.  This Vignette is simply meant to serve as an introduction.)  Expect anywhere from six to ten pages on the average.  More short scenes may appear as Interludes, though I'm not sure.

Also, be sure to write a review of this story—Contrary to what most readers might think, I can improve my writing, though not without input.  Remember, we authors want to write good stories as much as (maybe more than,) you want to read them.

Cam S.,  January 2002