I stopped and took a quick breath, feeling the Source flash and whirl within me, its heat dimmed. I had no time to give the Rockwood Valley more than a brief glance, just enough to put a plan in mind. The River of Ice was almost directly in front and underneath me—I could make it easily. Then I was falling into a crouch, tightening the muscles in my legs, hearing Ari’s final pained cry, “Run, Kelree! Leave me! I can’t hold it for much longer! I….”
His final howl of agony was cut off abruptly, and I leapt, leaving what remained of my brother behind me on the cliff.
Oh! My sincere apologies, dearest Liana! That is a bit too far along in the beginning of my story—oh, you must be dreadfully confused! Shall I start back at the beginning? Please, forget everything I just told you, and let me begin again. Oh, and yes, I would adore some tea, thank you!
It all started on the 23rd of the Month of Sacrifice in the Year of the Earth. Yes—twenty five years ago to the day.
It began with a bracelet. It was rather fancy—made of pure, bright gold and diamonds scattered around, whenever the braids join—easy enough to forget by the standards of our people, but as you can see I wear it about my wrist this very day, and I have not taken it off since I first put it on.
My sister was the first one to find it. We were out with Captain Arrisandos—did I tell you I traveled for eight years as a pirate hunter onboard the Soaring Keel chasing pirates all across the Sea of Tears? No? Well, those stories (and there are many) are for another time—and we had just taken over the Ice Mast—yes! That Ice Mast!—and as we were freeing the captives that remained alive (and replacing them with the few pirates that surrendered and locking them in our hold) Akalioa found it on the wrist of the now-deceased Captain Jaywind. Always on the search for the perfect accessory, Akalioa slipped it off his wrist, washed off the numerous blood stains, and placed it on her wrist.
Ah, do not give me that look! I know robbing from the dead is a vile thing, but you see the Soaring Keel was not oft welcome among ports, as usually we brought noblemen that have been becoming nuisances with us, destroying many a reputation. So we were living off the loot we took from the pirate ships before we sank them. And none of us ever had any consequences for our actions, so why should we fear?
But how quickly that all changed….
The…occurrences began a few days after Akalioa had taken the bracelet.
We first noticed something was…off when we returned to the Island of Denerri, where we usually made port and let off our captives for the Water Patrol to pick up later, and wait until the rumors of another nearby ship reached the ears of our resident Wizard, Orpodah. We had just turned in for the night when we heard the crackling of fire.
Oh, imagine the horror on our faces when we saw the light of fire dance on our cabin walls!
Outside, we saw none other than Akalioa, a massive bonfire flaring into the light, though her silhouette remained dark.
“I was cold,” my sister explained.
The rest of the crew gave her a good look, noting her slim arms untouched by ash, and her body unable to lift many of the logs that crackled behind her.
Captain Arrisandos took Orpodah aside, and bid him to watch my sister for signs of magic.
Now, you can imagine my fear—you, dearest Liana, know better than I the dangers of being a Wizard, so I need not cover them for you—and I prayed to every god I know that my Akalioa, dear Akalioa, would not be taken from me and sent to the Architect.
My prayers were not answered.
The occurrences began to happen more often as time progressed. The most memorable one was one I was unfortunate enough to witness: Akalioa and I had snuck on board the Stone Ball and were searching for the keys when we encountered an old…friend…of my sister’s. She and Akand had not parted well, and when they saw each other again she killed him. Brutally.
Yes, you know of my sister, and yes, you know what kind of person she was, for I have told you of her kindness many a time. So few of the others on board were more surprised than I when she sent him overboard, a spear in his chest.
You can imagine the faces of the enemy crew when they stagger out of bed, woken by her ex-lover’s screamings and thrashings in the water below—short as they were. Yes, he was her lover for over five years ten years ago, and when she was but a girl of ten-and-five it began. I had never liked the lad very much—especially because his tastes in love-making tended to make me walk in on them in the mornings when I was getting a cup of water after a long night spent on watch. Yes, the KITCHEN. Do not ask, I beg of you.
Anyways, Akalioa and I fled the ship, and Captain Arrisandos launched one of his rare contingency plans. The Soaring Keel lived up to its name as we figured the mists that Orpodah had called would not be enough to mask our presence now that they were aware of it. Sure enough, many of the Stone Ball’s trademark cannons launched a volley towards us. Most missed or were directed aside by a desperate blast of magical energy from Orpodah, but a pair smashed into the deck midships, and the Soaring Keel gave a good shake, its loyal crew sending up a grieving howl at the sight of their beloved ship injured so badly. Captain Arrisandos, never one to dwell in times of trouble, gave a shout to the helmsman, “Hard to port!” Or I think it was port, at least, because we turned right, if memory serves. Wait? Port is left and starboard is right? Alright, then. Then my memory is wrong. Shall we move on?
The Soaring Keel fled back to the island, but not before Orpodah sent a magical signal to the Stone Ball’s Wizard: “We will return, and you will die.”
That much was a guarantee. The ship could be, and was, repaired within two days of work, and within the week the Stone Ball proved how seaworthy it was when we sank it.
Oh, am I getting tired of saying all this aloud! Dearest Liana, would you mind it very much if I reverted to a paper form instead of speaking? It would take much less energy from these tired bones. Thank you, Liana! I shall send you the manuscript as soon as I can.
And about that tea…? Oh, no worries, Liana, I forgive you. Yes, sugar, certainly. I need the energy, however brief, if I am to tell my story of stories….