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  1. #11
    upon the cheek of night

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    Breaker's Avatar

    Joshua Breaker Cronen
    The trees and grass became a blur as I raced toward the Coronian port city. Worry flitted through my mind like a razor-winged butterfly, carving fresh concern wherever it lighted. Birds and small animals scattered from the thunderous sound of my approach, and insects stirred in the slipstream of my wake. I had never run so fast, not in training, not when I outpaced a stallion from Suravani’s Oasis, and not when I ran for Am’aleh. Kinley was different. Kinley was special. She needed me.

    I looped around Gisela’s outer wall in a matter of minutes, faster than an Alerian steam wagon and almost as loud. My metal boots pounded the earth, leaving deep treaded prints. For once the salt air was not a welcome smell. It struck me in the pit of my stomach, a sick foreboding note of dread.

    My eagle eyes could see far out over the waves. The sun stood low in the sky behind the city, casting the scene in dull twilight. Wind whipped the waves high enough to bring curling white to their caps. A lone craft braved the waters, a longboat rowed by six familiar men. The deserters. The ringleader stood at the prow, clutching a quaking and screaming McKinely. Her screams carried over the water, loud enough for my sensitive ears to hear the panic in her voice. The deserter struck her across the face and stuffed a rag in her mouth, and I forgot all caution and dove into the sea.

    Uncertainty flooded my mind as I fully submerged, kicking with both feet, scything through the water like a dolphin. Who could have manipulated me to give my own men such a command? Khal’jaren? The sage god would certainly have the wisdom to find a way to cast a spell on me. I shuddered to consider a second possibility, but it crept into my mind like seeping gas. What if Am’aleh was responsible? The last time I questioned her I’d been ever so wrong, and paid for it with a portion of my power. But who else would demand a death at sea? Unless that was what Khal’jaren wanted me to think.

    I surfaced and cut the waves with powerful, confident strokes, gaining on the longboat. As I rose with a swell I saw the ringleader tying McKinley’s wrists behind her back and laughing to his compatriots. Evidently I’d picked the right men for the job. My teeth nearly cracked with the force I ground my jaw. I would not hesitate to kill them.

    As I drew within a hundred yards one of the rowers spotted me and lifted a warning cry. The leader did not hesitate. He tipped McKinley into the sea and the longboat veered off, heading back to port.

    I am the ocean…

    I paused, treading water. Kinley bobbed like a cork, struggling to free her hands.

    I am the sea…

    That voice. Am’aleh’s voice. I had not heard it in so long. The way it emanated from the back of my mind, it might have been a memory.

    Wherever you may flow, always return to me.

    A woman of water took shape around Kinley, cradling her, keeping her head above the surface and smoothing back her soaked auburn hair. Am’aleh was there… saving my mortal lover. I could see her smile in the sparkle atop each wave. I could hear her laugh beneath whipping wind. I relaxed, swimming forward slowly. There was no need to rush…

    “Josh!” A different, equally familiar feminine voice screamed. “Help me!” The words vanished in a stream of gurgling sounds.

    The vision flickered. Am’aleh vanished.

    McKinley had freed her hands and torn the gag from her mouth, clawing at the waves to keep her head above water. She was failing. Horror struck me harder than a bolt of lightning. What had I seen? Where had my goddess gone?

    A third possibility invaded my mind like an auger. What if Khal’jaren was not to blame, nor Am’aleh? What if all the godly notions had been constructs of my overactive mind?

    What if I was going mad?
    Last edited by Breaker; 01-20-2018 at 11:27 AM.

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