Me: Finds one word that might do.
Me: keeps searching
Me: doesn't find anything
Me: inserts keyboard slam starting with X
Me: "Perfect. Do you think the readers will notice?"
Me: thinks hard
Me: "Hmm....maybe I should edit the story and invent a random name for the island."
Me: "...yeah. Although I do like the keyboard slam..."
Me: "But hey, we do it this way, and the title is even sarcastic!"
Me: "Sarcastic? Okay. We'll go with that then."
So there we go. 26 letters. 26 parts. Every. single. one. alliterated.
I hope you appreciate my dedication, *grins*
A Yearning Yawner got more votes for three and therefore we have two of our favourite characters back! And a hail to them. And I know that you all want to know what's happening and what cliffhanger** I've left you on this time for a few weeks now, so I'll let you run off and read it.
**Cliffhanger? Nooo. When have I ever done that? *innocent smile*
“Captain!” A crewman dashed into the room. “Some’uns outside making a terrible row ‘bout something.”
Muffled shouting came through the now-open door, and I scrambled up.
I knew those voices.
Warin half stepped toward the door, eyes narrowing. “Who is it?” he demanded.
The crewman started to shrug and Warin pushed past without waiting for an answer. “Louise. Stay there.”
“No thanks.” I shook my head, running after him.
Warin crashed through the front door, making the wooden frame rattle ominously. I caught the door just before it slammed in my face, pushing it open again and slipping through.
The rest of the crew was already outside, arrayed in front of the door. I couldn’t quite see above their heads.
“Excuse me,” I murmured, pushing past after Warin.
He looked like he was about to do something stupid.
Stepping between the last two men, I stood beside Warin, finally able to see.
They had come for me.
Then Leonora had dragged me forward and had her arms around my shoulders, a grin breaking across her features.
“Louise. Oh Louise. We’ve found you.” She pulled back to see my face clearly. “And you look like a smidge of a pirate girl.”
I couldn’t get the smile off my own face.
They’d found me.
Everything would be alright.
Warin cleared his throat awkwardly behind me and I turned. “So. We meet again, eh?” Warin tried for a wane roguish smile.
“Change of situations.” Eumin’s own smile was wry. “For once, we were chasing you.”
The crewmen standing behind Warin shifted uncomfortably, eyes on the ground. Their captain cleared his throat again, coughing behind his hand “Well, yes. Ah…indeed.”
Leonora’s lips twitched, and I felt a bubble of happiness welling in my heart.
Everything would be alright.
Warin put his hand on the hilt of his rapier. “So…since you’re here—”
“Nope.” Leonora’s voice brooked no argument.
Warin stopped mid sentence. “Ah…”
“If you’re going to fight, just get on with it before the audience gets inpatient.”
I turned at the lilting, educated voice, realising that half a dozen townspeople had gathered off to the side. A young man waved his hand in the air. “Soldiers and their bashing. They have no idea of quality.” A smile touched his lips. “But don’t let me interrupt.”
Warin’s mouth formed an ‘o’ of surprise.
“Yes. Don’t let the tailor give you lessons on when or how to swordplay.” The young man waved his hand again, his other arm draped with neatly folded fabrics. “Only, let me leave before your dust ruins the quality of my work.”
“I—” Warin blinked as the tailor saluted informally and walked away.
“He says that every time we’re in town,” one of the crewmen muttered. “Darned tailors and their high and mighty talk.”
“If you don’t mind, Captain,” Leonora brought Warin’s attention back to herself. “I will be taking back Louise and you can be off to wherever you want to be, as long as it isn’t near me.”
Warin stepped forward, hand back on his sword hilt once more.
The door behind the crew creaked and Elva slipped out, the men parting to let her through.
I froze at the light of anxiety reflected in her soft eyes.
No. Everything was meant to be going right now.
The healer stopped beside Warin, touching his shoulder lightly with one hand.
“He’s getting worse.”
My stomach dropped. The words from my dream pounded louder and louder in my ears.
He was fading.
I looked up, Warin meeting my gaze for a long moment.
Turning back to Leonora, he lifted his chin. “My lady, we have a country to save, if you care to join.”
Leonora blinked, glanced sidelong at Eumin and lifted one shoulder in a shrug. “Anytime.”
Warin turned to his crew. “Well, what are you waiting for? To the Rift!”
The crew surged forward into action, gathering any remain possessions from the house and starting toward the ship. Warin caught my arm. “Where are we going?”
I paused, swallowing hard. “To that island.”
A frown creased a line between his brows. “Pyre-ite?”
“No. The one I asked you about.”
“There’s nothing there, Louise.” He shook his head.
“That’s just the thing.” The words squeezed tight in my throat. “There is something there. And I need to get rid of it.”
Eumin’s hand rested on my shoulder, fingers pressing comfortingly.
My friends were there with me.
But inside I knew that Elva was right.
I had to do this.
And I had to do it alone.
After three tense hours of sailing, with the wind firmly in our favour, the island slid into view.
My breathing came tight and I tried not to think of my dream. Hands resting on the handrail, I looked across the greying waters as the island drew nearer.
Eumin stood beside me, his broad shoulders sheltering me from the bite of the icy wind. The Rift rolled over a swell, spray spattering across the deck but I kept my balance, fingers loose around the bulwarks. A spatter of the salt water speckled Eumin’s face and neck and he wiped it off ruefully.
“I’m still not your man when it comes to sea travel,” he remarked dryly
I drew in a deep breath, trying to find a sense of peace.
The sun was lowering in the west. Dark, swirling mist lapped around the edges of the island.
There was no peace here.
“That island used to be called Xaelvin. People used to fish from it.” Eumin’s eyes were thoughtful. “But then…one day none of them ever came back.”
I felt like Dark was slowly closing in around me, his net almost sprung.
Warin strode forward from his position at the tiller, eyes fixed on the nearing island. “We can’t go much closer. That mist often means shallow water. I can’t risk the Rift, we’ll have to row in with the longboats.”
He started to turn away, but I caught his sleeve. “Captain.” I stopped him. “Don’t ask the crew to come.”
He glanced around the deck. “They will do whatever I ask of them. Whatever you ask also, don’t doubt it.”
“That’s why I’m not going to ask them. They can’t do anything to help.” I shook my head.
I had to do it alone.
Warin paused for a moment and then nodded shortly. “Very well. I will row you, and the Quests can come as well.”
I nodded. They couldn’t do anything either, but I wouldn’t be able to convince them of that just yet.
In five minutes, Eumin helped me down into the small boat, my feet touching against the planking and sending it rocking unsteadily. Warin gave last minute orders to the crew and dropped into his seat, taking up the oars.
The even dip and splash of the oars in the water was the only sound in the stillness. Mist crept up the sides of the boat, trailing a cold finger down my spine. Leonora’s arm slipped up across my shoulders, a warm sense of comfort.
One I would soon have to leave behind.
The mist only got deeper and Darker as we neared the shore.
Eumin swung his legs over the side, splashing down into the waist high water to push the boat up to dry ground.
“Are you sure about this, Louise?” Leonora asked, her green eyes darting around the fog smothered island.
On the far edge of my vision I saw a figure appear, the mist swirling silently like a vortex.
Marius had come to lead me.
“I’m sure.” I let Eumin help me out, my feet slipping in the slick stones.
Leonora started to rise. “Well, the sooner in, the sooner out—”
“No.” I stopped her with a hand gesture. “You’re not coming.”
She looked bewildered. “But…of course I’m coming,” she protested.
“You all have to go back to the Rift. I need to do this alone.”
Eumin turned me around with a grip on my shoulder. “You can’t do this alone.”
I felt the truth of his words cut like a sword in my heart.
I knew I couldn’t.
But it was the only way.
Light. If you exist. Help me now.
“You know it always had to be like this.”
Emuin’s hand slipped from my shoulder. He wouldn’t leave. But he had to.
It would never work if I wasn’t alone.
Then Eumin stepped back into the boat, pushing it off the shore as he did, shoes dripping small ripple across the pale water.
“Wait no!” Leonora lurched forward but Eumin pushed her back gently.
“She’s right.” His eyes never left mine.
“Light be with you.”
Warin saluted silently, bowing his head and dipping the oars into the water.
Light be with you.
Eumin’s words hung in the air, strange and foreign in the heavy air.
I watched as the boat slipped back into the grey expanse, fading through the damp fog.
This was were it ended.
One way or another, tonight this would finish.
Either I would banish the Dark from Marius.
Or…I didn’t like to think of the other option.
Turning my back to the sea, I looked directly at the swirling Dark figure.
The man who was my brother.
“I will save you, Marius.” I let the words of hope drift into the drear greyness. “I will bring you back.”
Then I stepped forward and followed the shadowed Darkness into the very heart of its despair.
Tomorrow the sun would rise on a new day.
It was my job to make sure that it was a new day to rejoice in.
Was I strong enough to stand between the world and Dark by myself?
I didn’t know.
I didn’t see.
I didn’t understand.
It had never been about me.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Come back on 2 December to find out what happens next!
But don't stay away entirely, because I've got some posts scheduled for the next few weeks. And there's comments for you to comment.
I'm also offering a discounted model of Jane Maree that is perfect for throwing across the room whenever you read cliffhangers.
Or maybe not. But...I'm sure I can whip up something in the next fifteen minutes.
So, even though I decided that options didn't really work this week, do tell me how you liked (or didn't like) this week's chapter, and general critiques are always very very welcome.
And just keep checking back here just in case I change my mind and finish it before December...
|| Jane Maree ||