Child of the Kaites: Chapter 28

Find previous chapters here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 28 | Beth Wangler

“It’s hopeless,” Laen exclaims.  “We’re trapped in here.  We’ll run out of air, and we’ll die of thirst, and I hate the dark, and what if the aivenkaites come back and kill us!”  Her voice rises as she speaks.  The last bit is more of a wail than words, accompanied by her breath, too loud, too fast.

I think of the hilltop on Ira, of debarking in Izyphor without a seal of freedom, of the way out of Yrin’s dungeon, and every other impossible thing that has happened since Saviayr showed up at Tatanda’s house.  “Laen, we’ll be okay,” I promise.  The strange thing is, I actually believe it, even with Elesekk’s death resting like a stone in my chest.  Aia has gotten us this far.  I don’t understand why He let Elesekk die, but He won’t leave us trapped in this hole.

“Ow–Drigo, watch your elbow,” Hoenna says.

“I wouldn’t have to if you’d get out of my way.”

Laen’s breathing speeds up.

Saviayr’s voice rings out and makes me jump.  “Whoever’s closest to Laen needs to help her.”

“That’s me,” Liwin squeeks.  Pebbles skitter as he goes to her.

“Be careful of the hole,” Hoenna says.

“Yes, Dad.”  Sandals shuffle over crumbled rock.  “Okay, I’m here, Laen.”

“Hold her shoulders,” Hoenna prompts.  “Laen, focus on Liwin.  Feel his breaths.  Try to match him.”

“Yeah,” Liwin says.  “Here, see?  Breathe in and out.  In, and out.  Slow like that.”

It takes a while, but Laen’s breaths start to slow.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Laen’s calming down, but isn’t she kind of right?” Drigo asks.  “We’re trapped.  We’re gonna die.  Some god your Aia is–he can’t even keep his Champions safe.”

That makes me angry.  I’m holding Savi with one hand–I’ve shrugged off the sling–and Luemikaroeth with the other.  I squeeze the sword hilt and feel something…strange.  When I first held the sword, it felt like knowledge of swordplay was flowing into me.  Now, my anger seems to call to the sword, and it answers by magnifying my anger and clearing my head.

Never before has anger made my head feel more clear.

I see it plainly.  “That’s not true,” I tell Drigo.  “Aia is Thaies–He is God, and He is perfectly capable of saving His Champions.”

Drigo’s eyes widen in surprise.

Wait–I can see his eyes? Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 27

Let me just tell you, I’m SUPER excited about this week’s chapter!! It was very fun to write, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

If you’re just coming along or need a refresher, find links to previous chapters here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 27 | Beth Wangler

We scatter gravel as we run.  Forziel is first, just in front of me, and Savi brings up the rear.  The sun has set, and light is starting to fade.  I barely tell what color Forziel’s hair is.

The clouds switch directions, wheeling down the canyon.  Lightning fractures the sky.  Thunder rattles loose dust that dribbles down the canyon walls.

Aia, don’t let any of us die.

Flash!–boom!–right after each other, almost on top of us.

“Remind me why we’re running toward the crazy demon storm?” Drigo shouts.

“We’re trapped in a canyon,” Forziel yells.  “Gotta get higher before it floods.”

Will we reach the ruins in time?

Will the aivenkaites leave if we do?

Will they try to drag us into the water like when they tried to drown me at my beach?

Can Savi and I protect everyone?

Lightning splinters inside the clouds.  It silhouettes undulating shapes, humanoid and animalesque mixing together.

Black dots float in my eyes.

Aia, don’t let anyone die. Continue reading

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Beach Day

I was blessed by a full day at the beach yesterday.  Here are some pictures from my day and a couple descriptions I had fun writing 🙂

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Description 1

They chased the foam dripping back into the sea, then fled before each new wave with joyous peals.  It was a race, them and the water, yet one they did not mind to lose.

Description 2

Even at the beach, where cool currents lowered the temperature by a handful of degrees, hair frizzed and the air was heavy.  The morning sun sucked dampness from the sand up into a glowing haze.  Waves leapt over porous rocks at the foot of the cliffs, and the spray glinted brighter than diamonds.

The girl breathed, “It’s magical.  It’s a real-life fairy-tale,” and forgot for the moment about the heat.

Description 3

I had forgotten the wild of the sea.  Standing at its brink, I wondered how I ever escaped the inexorable call of the deep.  Light and sound crashed over me, draining me of the black and white city doldrums, filling me with gold and turquoise and midnight and silver until every cell gleamed with light and joy.

I was alive, renewed, enlightened.

White foam raced over my toes, crept up my ankles, and broke through my stupor.

I stepped forward and answered the call of the sea.

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 26

Find previous chapters here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 26 | Beth Wangler

My nightmare wakes me while the sun still shines.  I draw a hand over my face.  The vision, unchanged in all my years on Ira, keeps changing since we reached Izyphor.  Now, I dreamed of the sultan threatening death to Maraiah, but a gigantic corpse arose and started consuming first Maraiah and then all of Orrock.

I turn over, seeking Saviayr.  The dirt is scuffed where he slept, but he isn’t there.  My heart beats faster than it was already beating.  My breaths come in short gasps.

A noise nearby.  I bolt straight up, eyes stretched wide.  Is Aivenah coming to devour? Have the Izyphorns found us?

Oh, Aia, don’t let Aivenah kill Savi! Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 25

I’m excited to share this chapter with you, and have even been doing some painting! Here’s my take on part of Rai and co’s journey through the desert (probably when they were running away from Yrin’s city in Chapter 20)

Find previous chapter links here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 25 | Beth Wangler

“If that is your plan, why did you not use your swords against us?”

Onili reclines on a rock perch as high as my head would be, were I standing.  She squints down at us through the evening gloom.  The rest of the bandits stand in a circle around us, while we kneel on the ground.

A rock digs into my shin.  I shift, trying to dislodge it.  “Our swords aren’t ordinary.  They were made by the kaites–do you know about the kaites?”

The bandit chief rolls her eyes.  “Of course.  We all know each other’s beliefs.”  She gestures to her followers.

“Well, the kaites who made them…somehow put their lives into them.”  Nhardah explained it much better than me.  “And now, these are the only two weapons on Orrock that can wound an aivenkaite.  That’s their purpose.  I didn’t⎼” I glance at Savi⎼ “we didn’t think it was right to use them against humans.”

“How noble,” Vant drolls. Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 24

Find links to previous chapters here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 24 | Beth Wangler

“That was easier than I expected,” the Maraian boy says in the Common Tongue.  A rope tied to Nihae’s wrists dangles from his hands.

One of the Rhilissi, whose braids form an arrow pattern on his head, claps the boy on his shoulder.  “Well, Liwin, sometimes you gotta take your good fortune when it come.”

Their good fortune includes Savi’s bleeding nose, Forziel’s black eye, dozens of bruises and scrapes between the four of us, and a dreadful pain in my left shoulder, along with our swords in their hands.  I’m sprawled awkwardly on the ground with my wrists bound behind my back, trying to keep pressure off of my shoulder.

Feet wrapped in leather scuff the dirt in front of my face.  Onili towers over me, twisting Luemikaroeth back and forth.  The blade catches the light of the moons and sends it dancing.  It reflects the indree up into Onili’s face as her lips stretch.  “Oh, I like this.  It’s not often I see an actual sword, and I’ve never seen one quite like this one.  This was really good fortune.” Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 23

Find the table of contents here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 24 | Beth Wangler

The closer we get to the cry, the thicker the reeds grow.

“Don’t step on the shore,” Forziel cautions.  “If we leave footprints or scent, it’ll undo all the extra work of leaving a decoy trail.”

Then a reed catches my sandal underwater.  I wiggle free, only to stumble face-first into another stalk.  I shove the reed aside and push forward.

The baby’s cry sputters.  We surge upstream with renewed vigor.  It’s anyone’s guess how long the infant has been out here.  We need to find it.

By now, the sun has sunk without fanfare.  The sky dims with every step we take.  Shadows lengthen and deepen among the reeds.

The baby’s cries quiet. Continue reading

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 22

Were you feeling tired after Chapter 21?  Because our characters and I all were, that’s for sure.  Let’s see what happens now that they’re rested.

(previous chapters here)


Child of the Kaites Chapter 22 | Beth Wangler

Someone is moaning, long and slow.  It stops for an instant, only to start right back up.

Who is moaning?  Why?

I wrench my eyes open.  They’re dry and scratchy and at first only see shadowy dirt.  Rolling onto my side sets all my muscles complaining.  I wince.

A tall earthen wall greets my eyes now.  Another rises close behind me.  Savi sprawls prostrate and motionless at my feet, and over him are Nhardah and Forziel’s silhouettes, hunched together in the cave entrance.

In the other direction, Nihae clutches her knees and rocks.  She moans again.

Elesekk.

I curl in like I was punched in the stomach.  Unholy screams.  Fighting in a tight place.  Sword arcing through the air.

Crack.  Thud.

I just manage to scramble to my knees, then I’m heaving up bile.

“She’s awake,” Forziel unnecessarily says.

A hand swipes the loose hairs from my face.  Another rubs my back.  “Relax, Raiballeon,” Nhardah hums.  “You’re all right.”

I spit and wipe my lips.  Inside me feels just as tumultuous as it did when I was gagging.  “How can you say that?” I choke.  “You of all people know that’s not true.”

He sighs.  “No.  But you’re alive, and so are Nihae and Saviayr.  The rest will ease with time.”

I swat Nhardah’s hand away and glare at him.  “Enough of your stupid wisdom.  Where were you when we needed you?  Why couldn’t you have come just one moment sooner?”

I roll my neck and test my ankle.  It’s sore, but I don’t think it’s too much worse.  At any rate, the rest of me isn’t much better off.  That decided, I rise with a groan and join Nihae.  Her green eyes stare at the cave floor.  She doesn’t blink at my approach or stop moaning.

I crouch in front of her.  Close up, I see hints of moisture gathered in the corner of Nihae’s eyes, along with both new and dry tear tracks.  My breath catches.  My stomach knots again.  How long has she been like this?

I rest a hand on the arm wrapped around her knees.  “Mama?”

Nihae doesn’t react.

So I just sit, holding her arm while she rocks and moans.  When my legs cramp, I mimic her pose.

My nose tickles.  I wipe it and brush my cheek.  I’m not surprised to find that it’s wet, too, though I hadn’t realized I was crying.

Forziel mutters something about checking our trail, probably an excuse for respite from our grief.  He scurries out of the cavern, waking Savi in his passing.  Savi sits bolt upright and blinks around him.

Then his eyes land on Nihae and me.  His shoulders tense.  The bump of his throat bobs.  He blinks repeatedly and clenches his jaw.

I swallow around the lump in my throat.  “Savi?”  My own tears slur my voice.

He swallows again, shaking his head at my outstretched hand.  “Where’s Forziel?” he asks, voice strained.  “We need to keep moving.”  Savi pushes up and heads toward the entrance.

Nhardah stays motionless, head bowed.  I hiss at him, “At least help with Nihae.  It’s the least you can do.”  Without waiting for a response–I don’t want to hear anything from him right now–I join Saviayr.  He leans an elbow against the cavern wall, chest heaving.

I rub my hand over the warm material of his tunic, stiffened by the river water that dried while Savi still wore it.  “It’s okay to grieve,” I whisper.  “You can cry.  Elesekk…”

Savi’s breath shudders.  The muscles under my hand tense further.  “No.”  He takes a deep breath and pushes off the wall.  “I have to move on.  We’ve got a mission to accomplish.  My dad doesn’t matter⎼” his breath hitches⎼ “when all Maraian is counting on us.”

A sob slips out before I can catch it.  “But Savi⎼”

“No.  This is my decision.”  He keeps his face turned away from me.  “I’m gonna go find Forziel.”

Savi dips around the corner and disappears into the darkening world outside.  I turn back into the cave with a sigh.  Back in the shadows, Nhardah sits next to Nihae.  His dark hand rubs her back while she keeps rocking.

“We’re leaving soon,” I tell both of them, not expecting or receiving a response.

A thread tickles my knee.  That’s right–the aivenkaite grabbing my skirt, cutting off the fabric to free myself.  I try to pull the gaping edges together.  The result is a skirt too tight for easy motion.

I scan the cave for the sack with my clothes and writings.  It’s nowhere to be found.  My stomach sinks lower.  I didn’t have the bag last night during the fight.  I didn’t carry it across the dunes or through the tunnel.  In the aftermath of speaking with the Voice of a Multitude, I left the bag on the floor of the royal Yrin’s main hall.

Just like that, three years of work are lost.

I dissolve into tears as Savi and Forziel reappear.

“I thought you said things were calmer,” Forziel exclaims.  He backsteps.

Savi shuffles closer.  “Rai?”

“It’s Elesekk, and the aivenkaites–and what are we doing? The sultan’s gonna–and–and my histories, that I spent all that time writing–and I don’t have any clothes!”  A hiccough interrupts the last word.

There’s silence but for my gasps and Nihae’s moans.

“You…clothes?” Savi asks.

I wave at the side of my skirt.  “Yes.  I can’t go wandering through Izyphor half-naked!”

Again, silence.

Forziel starts edging deeper into the cave, watching me all the while.  Savi shifts his weight between his feet.

I try to slow my breaths.  This isn’t their fault.  I shouldn’t be freaking out.

“I have some spare pants you could wear?” Forziel offers.

I rake fingers into my hair.  Half of it isn’t held by the tie anymore.  That must be fixed.  I undo the tie with shaking fingers.  “Okay.  Yeah.”  My voice shakes, too, so much the words might not be distinguishable.  I have to calm down.  I should follow Savi’s example, focus on our mission right now.

Forziel dives into his pack and pulls out patched brown pants.  These he tosses over to me before poking around in the bag.  He holds aloft a package.  “Aha!  I brought some food, too.  We should eat before we go.”

While Forziel distributes the food, I slip into the pants.  Common slave wear, they’re designed loose to make them fit as long as possible.  These are too loose on me, though.  I gather the waistband in one hand and ponder.  My eyes fall on Luemikaroeth, abandoned on the ground.  A belt–it can hold up my pants and carry my sword.

I clench my jaw and rip the hopelessly ruined fabric of the dress in which I married Saviayr.

With a new belt in place, I accept Forziel’s offer of food and grind the salted meat between my teeth.  The earthy flavor of rabbit fills my mouth.  On Ira, our meat mostly came from the island’s sheep flock.  Rabbit is the meat of slavery, and its taste calls up hot nights in tiny huts, living shoulder to shoulder with other families, sunburns, and laughter with my sister and Savi.

“What do I do with it?” Nihae asks.  A chunk of rabbit jerky dangles from her fingers.  Her eyebrows pinch together.

“What do you mean?” Savi asks.  “You eat it.”

Nihae frowns at the meat.  With great suspicion, she nibbles the very edge.

Savi keeps prompting her to eat, so I turn to Forziel.  I feel a little guilty for saying this after he just gave us food and clothing, but it can’t be helped.  “I think you should go back.”

His eyes widen.  “What?  But you said⎼”

I hold up a hand.  “I know, but I agreed you could be our guide.  We’re trying to get to the capital–due north of the royal Yrin’s land.  You led us east and southeast.  We can’t deal with someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing.  We have to be there by the Feast of Wheat.  And I can’t have a naive boy’s death on my hands.”

“Raiballeon, that’s too harsh,” Nhardah rebukes.

“No, she’s right,” Savi says from Nihae’s side.  “It’s too dangerous, especially if he doesn’t know what he’s doing.  We’ve got aivenkaites and Izyphorns on our trail.”

“But I do know.”  Forziel throws back his shoulders.  “Capital’s up the Havilim.  So’s a bunch of other cities and towns.  I led our trail away from major cities toward the coast.  That’s just what they’d expect runaways to do.

“Now, we’ll double back walking in the river.  It’s one of the Havilim’s tributaries, too small for boats and trade.  It’ll wash away our trail.  We can get out far upstream, where they won’t look for us, and cut across the desert at night to get safe to the capital.”

I bite another piece of jerky to put off answering.  When I swallow, I admit, “That actually makes sense.”

Nhardah shifts, but wisely decides not to say anything.

“So…I can stay?” Forziel bounces once on his toes.

His energy exhausts me.  But at least someone in our group is untouched by recent grief.  “Fine.”  Aia, please don’t let this be a mistake.

Savi tenderly drags Nihae to her feet.  I look around to make sure we have all of our belongings.  Then Forziel leads us out of the cave.

The cliffs on either side block the sun, and the long shadows cast by the western cliffs show that it is evening.  Forziel leads us down the short, steep beach and into the river.  I wait for Savi to lead Nihae down and follow behind them.

The tepid water is a soothing balm compared to the heat in the air.  I’m thankful for my sandals, and for the buoyancy the water provides as rocks shift and roll underfoot.

“Careful, Mama,” Savi murmurs, tightening his grip on her arm when she pitches forward.

Her tremulous response is lost in the wind.

Soon, I lose gratitude for the water when its resistance drags my sore ankle.  The cave is hardly out of sight when I start limping.

We walk without conversation.  Despite our rest, I am still tired, and I’m sure the others are, too.  Besides, if there are any Izyphorns nearby, we don’t want to alert them to our presence.  We’ve had enough battles for now.

The cliffs sink, and the banks relax.  On the left, we pass a place where the ground was churned by hurried feet.  That was where we entered the river yesterday.

Further along, a hand brushes my elbow.  I jump.

It’s only Nhardah.  I glare at the Firstborn.  “What?”

He sighs and rubs the stubble roughening his jaw.  “Raiballeon, I need to apologize to you.”

I scoff.  “Oh, like an apology will do anything.”

“It won’t change the past, no.  But that is not the point of an apology.”

My next step is more forceful, almost a kick.  I regret it when my sore ankle twinges.

“You were right, that I am in some part culpable for Elesekk’s death.  For long years, I’ve kept myself separate from the world’s affairs.  I told myself my time of effecting change was over.  Aia would continue his plan by using my descendants to redeem Orrock.  They would be my legacy.

“I only came to Ira and interacted with you at Mithrida’s prompting.  If not for my wife, for her kaite wisdom and greater knowledge of Aia’s actions, I would have left you alone entirely.  Becoming entangled with humans is something I have distanced myself from for centuries.

“I was wrong.”  Nhardah pauses, head tilted.  “You’ve helped me recognize that I still have a part to play.”  He fixes his deep orange eyes on me.  “I am responsible for helping set this world to rights again, too.  I deeply regret my complacency and the grief and loss it has caused.  I shall strive to do better.”

I blink against the prickling in my eyes.  My breath shakes.  “Okay,” I say.  “Good.”

Nhardah bows his head, then turns forward.

“But I’m still mad at you, okay?”

He opens his mouth, then quirks his head.  “Do you hear that?”

All I hear is the swish of us moving upriver.

Nhardah holds up his hands.  “Wait, everyone.”

The others pause and look back at us, curious.  “What’s wrong?” Savi asks.  His hand goes to his sword.

The river settles into its placid flow.  The reeds starting to grow along the bank swish.  Spotted crakes digging for supper along the bank sound their repetitive whip-crack calls.

In a small twilit hush, I catch what Nhardah heard: The weak resound of a baby’s cry.


Tune back in next Monday for Chapter 23 🙂 Let me know your thoughts on this one in the comments.

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Child of the Kaites: Chapter 21

Sorry it’s a bit late today! Hopefully it is worth the wait.

Find previous chapters here.


Child of the Kaites Chapter 21 | Beth Wangler

Deep buzzing builds slowly.  At first, it’s like a hundred hornets far off.  I hear it between footfalls, since the thud of my feet as I run drowns it out with each step.

But it keeps getting louder.

“Don’t look back,” Forziel yells.  “It’ll slow you down.”

Savi, paces ahead of me, shouts encouragement to Nihae.  She bobs in the corner of my eye, head down, bent forward.

The deep buzz grows.

It’s moments until the aivenkaites will reach us.  How many must it take to set the whole desert rolling?  Dozens–maybe even a hundred.  In the tight tunnel under the palace, Savi and I were hard pressed to fight six off–and they were constrained by the bodies they possessed.

And Elesekk…

A wave of panic blinds me.  We’re all going to die.  I careen forward without sight.

A few paces.  My ears start ringing.  I squeeze my eyes shut.

Then a calm washes over me.  My eyes fly open.  My straining lungs drag in a gulp of air.  I’m deaf now to fear.

I don’t have time to ponder why.  The rising sun burns pure white ahead, just to the left.  It sparks of Saviayr’s sword.

“Faster,” Forziel calls.

“Mama, get in front of me,” Savi barks, voice strained.

“Aia-ni, ouni-hae,” Nhardah shouts at the sky.  “My Aia, save them.”

The buzz is as loud as the crack of waves against Ira’s cliffs in a storm.

Each thud of my heart echoes through my body.

The desert underfoot hardens.  Wind has swept the sand from the bedrock here and carved sculptures into the rock jutting out of the ground.  I fly past a towering amber monolith.

The sound is no longer a buzz but a roar.

My fingers tighten around Luemikaroeth.  My mouth goes dry.

The pillar of limestone beside me moves.

I swing the sword, following it with a shout and my whole body.  Metal bites into moving rock.  The spire explodes.  Gravel rains around me.

The ground lurches.  I stab between my feet, and the dirt cracks with a scream.

More screams.  The aivenkaites are everywhere.  Flying sand and pebbles blind me.  I swing, slash, stab, hack.

A rock hand claws my skirt and pulls.  I fall.  My elbows smack the ground first, and the air is gone from my lungs, but I can’t linger.  By Aia’s grace alone Luemikaroeth remains in my hand.

I kick, twist to my back, and slash the sword across my skirt.  The fabric flies away from the aivenkaite’s hand.

My neck jerks back as something yanks my head.  Savi shouts my name over the aivenkaites’ cacophony.  Before I can react, the being is gone, an unholy shriek deafening my ears.

Savi is there, chest heaving, coated in dust turned to mud by the sweat running down his face.  Our eyes meet.

A bolt of sand hurtles toward his back.  “Duck!” I cry.

Savi drops.

Luemikaroeth cuts through the aivenkaite.

For two heartbeats, there is no attack.  We lurch toward Nhardah, Nihae, and Forziel’s retreating backs.  “Keep moving,” Nhardah orders.  He runs on the heels of the other two, a barrier between them and the aivenkaites.

Then three more aivenkaites reach us.  All else but the instinct to fight disappears.

No matter how many we cut, more keep coming.  My arm is burning.  My eyes sting.  I feel my attacks starting to weaken.  With the next swing at a falling pillar of stone, I barely raise Luemikaroeth in time.

This can’t go on much longer.

Savi cries out.  I drive my sword through a rock ten times my height.  He’s in trouble.  I have to get to him.

“Aia-hae,” I scream in the storm of dust and rock and evil spirits.

I’m dimly aware of Savi inching back beside me.  I try to follow, best as I can.

For a second, the dust clears.  Savi’s holding one arm close to his chest.  Blood trails down his cheek.

“Run,” Nhardah’s voice comes from a long way off.

I grab Savi and turn after Nhardah’s voice.  Have to run.  Have to keep going.

But the air has turned to sludge.  Air drags against my limbs, like riptides trying to pull me under.  With all my strength, I drag Luemikaroeth in front of me.  It’s like trying to stir wet adobe with a straw.  The blade meets no resistance, but my arm can hardly move.

Nhardah’s voice spurs us forward.  I struggle a couple steps more.

Then the air lets go, followed by a hurricane of damp wind.  I’m soaked.  Escaped hairs are plastered to my face, and what remains of my skirt drips.

What?

I glance over my shoulder.  A cloud of dust and rock rises anew.  It launches itself at us.  But more dirt lurches in its way.  The cloud bends back and writhes.

I hear a familiar language chanted by the wind.

“The kaites,” I tell Savi.  He’s already dragging me away.

Debris litters the uneven ground.  My sandal catches on a stone.  I pitch forward.  Savi’s grip on my arm tightens, so only my knees hit the ground.  I’m up and running again before I feel the sting of scraped skin.

We dodge rock towers–these ones stationary.  Nihae, Forziel, and Nhardah have disappeared.  Savi stumbles but keeps going.

Then we crest a short hill.  The ground slopes down to a vast, blue river.  The other three wave at us from the bank.  We half-run, half-slide down in a cascade of loose rock and dust.

“Can you swim?” Forziel asks.

I nod, but Nihae and Savi shake their heads.

Nhardah pushes them into the river anyways.  “Then you’re about to learn.  Hold onto the rest of us and don’t struggle.”

The aivenkaites scream loud behind us, their cries shaking the ground.  My hairs stand on end.  Without another thought, I plunge into the slow-moving river.

The water stings my scraped knees, but soothes the rest of my skin.  Nhardah’s arm is around Savi’s chest.  He easily tows my husband toward the far bank.  I reach for Nihae.  “Keep an arm over my shoulder,” I tell her.

She does, with a little too much force.

“Not quite so tight,” I gasp.

Nihae relaxes enough that I can breathe easily.  I lean into the water and kick us forward.  I haven’t swum in years, though, not since the kaites sent me home.  It’s easy to remember, but I’m not strong enough to support us both.  “Forziel?” I gulp.  “A little help?”

Nihae tenses, which only makes it harder.  “What’s wrong?”  Her voice shakes.

I struggle for air and to keep us afloat.  

Forziel’s head pops up on the other side of Nihae.  “Gotcha,” he says, far too cheerful for someone just attacked by aivenkaites after running through the desert for hours.

“Rai?” Nihae asks.

“We’re going to be fine,” I tell her, though I don’t fully believe it.  “I just needed some help swimming.  It’s been a while.”

I can’t begrudge Forziel his energy.  With his help, we manage to kick to the far shore.  Nhardah and Savi wait there, clutching their knees and dripping.

I drag the hand holding Luemikaroeth over my brow.  Thank Aia that fordue metal doesn’t rust.  I have nothing to dry the sword.

Forziel stamps his feet, sending water splashing out of his sandals.  “C’mon,” he says.  “This way.”

I have no idea where he’s leading us.  He heads downstream, along the riverbank.  We’re trying to get to the capital in the north, so the direction doesn’t make sense.  I’m far too tired to care, though.  Nhardah’s following Forziel, so it must be okay.  I squeeze Nihae’s arm and nod, too drained to smile at her.  Her eyes are blank, her cheeks dragged down by exhaustion and grief.  Savi steers Nihae forward with a hand on her back.

I trudge after Forziel.  “Aivenkaites don’t like rivers,” he explains, though no one asked.  “Running water’s too clean, and there’s ‘most always kaites there looking for Maraian babies.  If they want to do real damage, they’ll avoid the rivers, so we’re safest here as we would be anywhere.”

Forziel continues prattling on, but I’m too tired to follow his train of thought.  His voice becomes a background hum as the bank rises and we have to walk one at a time between river and cliff.  When the sun is high enough that the cliffs no longer shelter us from its unrelenting heat, Forziel points out a dark recess in the cliffside.  “We can rest in there.”

We squeeze through a narrow gap into a thick, damp shadow that is blessedly cooler than the air outside.  My knees buckle.  Luemikaroeth clatters to the ground a heartbeat before I follow.

In an instant, I’m asleep.

Posted in Child of the Kaites, Stories | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Moon Keeper

Inspiration can come when you least expect it.  Today, I bring you a poem inspired by Ashley Hansen’s Twitter post:

Follow this link for the original post.  While you’re at it, follow her (and me!) on Twitter.

It’s a pretty fun idea, right?  I couldn’t get it out of my head, and to keep my sanity, those kinds of persistent story ideas usually come out in poems.  (That way I can use them and continue novel-ing.)

Moon Keeper | Beth Wangler

Remember when your favorite show
Warned, “Beware of the beast below?”
In our family, little dove,
We warn of the Beast above.

Consume it would, without our fight,
The force that guards our very life.
Then why not slay it? Well you ask:
Without its hunger we’d not last.

Hanging high in lonely night,
‘Tis Moon’s unstated appetite
For gravity that pulls the waves,
And thus it is our lives he saves.

No man within the moon is there.
The Beast alone has fixéd stare,
Ever drinking, lapping up
The force that keeps us grounded, stuck.

For endless does the Earth produce
The gravity Beast must reduce–
Yet, lest you think this Beast a saint,
Know what is our family’s fate:

The Beast, it seems, grows never full
Of eating Earth’s gravitational pull.
Did we not bind him, drive him back,
How soon the earth would be in lack!

With no force left to tether feet,
We’d all float up above the street
And rise up still, through stratosphere,
Till dead from lack of atmosphere.

And why not, then, just slay the Beast?
That would not save us in the least.
Without his endless appetite,
Gravity’s force would not be light.

Up and up the pressure would build
Till we are all smashed flat and killed.
You see, my dove, there is no cure:
The Beast is there and must be, sure.

Precisely there our family comes in
With duty passed down in our kin:
Each month we must put up a fight
When Moon is forged, swollen with light.

With my last breath, to you I say:
Guard Earth for another day.
This title I now give you, love:
Keeper of the Beast Above.

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment