View Full Version : Time and Tide Ch-4

08-02-2007, 09:17 PM
Thank you one and all for bearing with me as I agonized through this chapter. Now, at long, long last, I am pleased to present Time and Tide, Chapter 4. Enjoy :)
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Chapter 4: Cost

To say that we were in a state of shock would be an understatement. If you have never lived in a country that has just been defeated militarily you couldn't possibly understand the shame, the grief and the guilt that we suffered. Shame for having fought and lost. Grief for the fall of our city which had stood for so long; and guilt for still being alive when so many we had loved had perished. Even with food being brought into Katai, there were those who chose to die of hunger rather than suffer the indignity of living as a conquered people.

I was almost one of those lost souls. The enormity of what had happened was just too much to face. My spirit caved inward upon itself; I simply lost the will to live. After a day or two I stopped even registering what was going on around me. Ata and Anai tried desperately to reach me, to get me to eat, but I was too numb to even try. My days and nights were a disjointed blur of images with no sensation. Finally one day I recall hearing someone screaming my name. I came to long enough to see something so frightening that it shook me back to my senses; the face of the high priest, bright red with rage, and a very large fist too close to dodge. There was a sickening thud, a blinding flash of light, and then darkness...

The world slowly returned to me; I sincerely wished that it wouldn't. My first conscious thought was a prayer; "Lumis let me be in hell, because if I'm not then I have the headache of all time and I don't think I want to survive it."

No matter how strong your faith, eventually you begin to suspect that the gods are deaf...

I slowly managed to open my eyes... and my head exploded. I rolled to the side and groaned but that only ended with my head exploding again coupled with dry heaves. If you've never had dry heaves before count yourself blessed. And if you've never had them on top of a concussion then maybe, just maybe, the gods aren't deaf.

As I lay there in my misery, gagging and trying to hold my head together; a great, deep, booming voice, sounding very much like the end of the world said; "It's about damn time you decided to wake up!"

"I don't care what god or demon you are, please shut up;" I managed to croak through my suffering. "I'm trying to die as quietly as I can over here, the least you can do is to follow my fine example."

"Mind your tongue girl;" the end of the world boomed, a little more gently this time. "Years of war may have hardened you, but you're still young enough for me to thrash, especially for blasphemy."

"It's good to see you too, Te'Ata;" I groaned as my vision began to clear and the face of the high priest came into focus next to me.

My entire universe hurt. After three years of fighting, I felt like one strung-out, exhausted bruise; and the polished granite slab I was curled up on only served to make each and every ache and pain that I'd ever acquired stand up and answer roll call. The constant gnawing knot in my stomach popped its head in and reacquainted itself with old friends and relations. I was almost too weak to fight it, but finally, in an effort to mitigate my suffering, I made the mistake of trying to sit up... and was promptly rewarded with a fireworks display that was not to be topped until the Chinese discovered gunpowder, almost ten thousand years later.

"Slowly girl, slowly;" said the high priest gruffly, catching me as I rolled off the bench. "You've already had one concussion today, you don't need to be giving yourself another."

He slowly helped me sit up and lean into a corner. I found myself in an unfamiliar room. It was small and windowless (and pretty much featureless) and made entirely of polished granite. Three torches on the far wall provided sufficient light to read by (provided your head wasn't exploding). I looked back to the high priest. His face was a dark storm cloud of anger, which he was trying unsuccessfully to mask. He turned away from me for a moment, and when he turned back he had a plate and a cup in his hands.

"I have some bread and water for you," he said. "I suggest that you take them slowly. You are going to be a good little girl and eat your dinner, aren't you?" He said the last with a growl that left no misunderstanding as to his intent.

Obediently, I took a small bite of the bread and chewed it sullenly. With a little water I managed to choke it down but somehow that simple act of eating began to reconnect me with my own existence. As I ate a memory came back to me of the large boulder which had laid me out.

"You hit me;" I began. "How dare you!"

He responded with a look that made me quake to the very depths of my soul. Trust me, you've never truly understood fear unless you've ever offended a man with that much power and authority.

"How dare me?" He said, his voice again sounding like the end of the world. "How dare you! What I did, I did to save your life and your soul. You however, quit! How dare you! After everything that has happened, how dare you quit now? You, who were to so many, the very symbol of our defiance of tyranny. This is how you honor the memory of our dead, by becoming one of them!? And you say 'how dare I'!? "

"I didn't quit, we all did;" I said lamely. " We surrendered, remember."

"The king and your Ata did what had to be done, in order that some might be saved! That is their sacred duty, to ensure that our people, our way of life survive; any way they can. Somebody had to lose in the end, and the Empire had most of the advantages. We shouldn't have been able to withstand their initial assault, the way we were; but we held them off for three years. Against all odds and against all understanding we held them off. There is no shame in the way this conflict ended."

Tears welled up in my eyes and I resented him for them. I had run out of tears an eternity before, it seemed; and I didn't welcome them now. Somehow, I managed to choke them back down, yet I was shamed by his words and couldn't bring my face to meet that terrible countenance.

He sat down on the bench beside me and continued; "You also have a sacred duty young lady. You have a duty to your people. All these people who went through this with you and all those who died that we might live; your quitting is like a slap in the face to them. You are third in line for the throne right now; you don't have the luxury of bowing out. What about your Ata, and your friend; what about them? You are all they have left, would you abandon them so readily simply because you don't wish to cope!? That's just too bad!"

There was nothing I could say. I could fault nothing that he said no matter how hard I tried, and believe me I tried. He was right on all accounts and I resented him all the more for it. The bread, dry as it was, suddenly seemed to turn to ashes in my mouth. All I could do was hang my head in shame. Still, stubbornly, I refused to give him the satisfaction of hearing me admit it. Sometimes, even I can't understand teenagers...

"I'll leave you to yourself for a while," he said; standing up and turning to go. "Can I trust you to eat without an overseer?"

I took a slow breath to compose myself and nodded.

"Good;" he said gravely as he walked away. "I'd hate to think I couldn't knock some sense even into as hard a head as yours."

I sat in silence for a while slowly eating. This can be a dangerous thing for a fifteen year old because for the first time in your life you are left with absolutely nothing to do but think. You are forced, kicking and screaming, to look your life in the face. To bear witness to everything you have gone through; every action you have ever taken, every word ever spoken, every triumph and loss. And you are left bewildered; staring uncomprehendingly down the road ahead of you. And you are afraid.

I was afraid. I felt cold. My chest was tight and I could barely breathe. Panic washed over me like a slow icy wave and my body begin to tremble. 'Get control!' I thought to myself; beginning to remember the tools that had gotten me through three years of constant fear. The trembling became uncontrollable and I was near to tears.

'Lock it down!!' I yelled at myself. I couldn't hold onto the food anymore and the bread, plate and cup all clattered to the floor.

'LOCK IT DOWN, LOCK IT DOWN, LOCK... IT... DOWN!!' I screamed violently in my head. My rage rapidly began to win out over the panic until it completely overwhelmed it. Now I was trembling for an entirely different reason. Only the control learned from years of battle kept me from breaking down completely at this point. With what little strength I could gather I pounded my fists against the stone bench hoping that pain would help me get some grip on my emotions.

The rage slowly passed, leaving me choking on unshed tears, but as it passed I was finally able to lock down my emotions, and lock them down hard. I was cold. I was alone. I was utterly empty, devoid of any emotion. I had locked away the darkness and fear, and I would survive another day.

One war was over, another had begun; the war to rebuild our lives. I would be needed in that war too it seemed. Another body to man the walls and keep death and ruin at bay.

'So be it, ' I thought grimly as I picked the bread up off the floor and began to eat (it was after all the first food I'd seen in a week or more). 'I will do as I must.' If I'd known what fate had in store for me I would have found a sword and thrown myself on it...

I don't know just how long I was kept there in that room, but I'm certain that it was several days. Time didn't seem to exist there, yet every moment seemed like an eternity. Various priests brought me food and water periodically and sat with me a while, from them I learned that I was inside the Temple of Lumis. To my knowledge, no woman other than the high priestess of Anais had ever set foot inside this place, not even the queen. It was forbidden. Out of respect, I stayed in my cell; though the priests seemed to hold no ill will about my presence. I was brought fresh clothes and a wash basin. I ate when I was hungry and slept when I was tired, having no knowledge of what time of day or night it was. When I had the strength to do so again, I walked around my cell. I grew stronger day by day.

After what felt like years, the high priest came to see me again. I was half-asleep when he came in.

"I'm told that you seem to be doing better;" was the first indication that I wasn't alone in the room anymore. I sat bolt upright on the bench and was awake instantly.

"Te'Ata, I..."

"Are you ever going to do anything that stupid again?" He asked. I was startled by the question, but I noticed that his voice and his face didn't hold the same anger as the last time that I'd seen him.

I lowered my head in shame and said; "No Te'Ata. It was a mistake. Please forgive me. I will not make such mistakes again."

He almost laughed at that. "Oh you'll make mistakes alright. You will make monumental mistakes; mistakes which will lead you down paths of great wonder, and great sorrow. As sure as you are human you will make mistakes. You have a destiny ahead of you laid down by mistakes, but it is not given to us to dictate our own end. Life is a precious gift, and throwing it away without just cause is an unforgivable sin. Remember that the next time you feel like you can't go on."

"Yes Te'Ata," I mumbled.

"Then I think it's time you were away. You've been here too long as it is," he said, offering his hand to help me up.

The high priest (I honestly don't think anybody ever knew his name. Do you know the real name of the Pope?) was a large man; and by large I mean he was a hulking giant. He stood almost half-again my height; perhaps seven feet to the top of his bald head and was broader across the chest than I could have wrapped my arms around. He had the face of a simpleton, yet I knew the intellect hidden behind that disguise. He could be the most gentle and sincere man you've ever met. Angered, he could be the most terrifying thing you would ever have the misfortune to encounter. No matter what state he was in, he positively exuded authority, even the king bent ear to him. I accepted his dishpan size hand and watched as my hand was completely enveloped in a vice-like grip. I realized that his closed fist was nearly the size of my head and suppressed a shudder of memory.

He lifted me to my feet and led me down a long dark hallway. There were other cells off to either side that were nearly identical to mine. This appeared to be the actual living area for the priests, judging from the fact that there were priests sleeping in some of them. From the hall, he led me up a stairwell that seemed to be extremely long, narrow and steep. He completely filled the stair and it made me wonder how he managed to get down here carrying me.

As we neared the top of the stair, I began to hear singing. It was a strange and alien song, not of the tongue of Katai, nor of any of the religions of Katai. When we reached the top of the stair and I was no longer stuck behind the high priest, I could hear the song better. It was the most alien thing that I had ever heard, yet it struck me as extraordinarily beautiful. We had come out into the main sanctuary of the temple and I could see a group of fifty or so men kneeling as if in prayer near the altar. It was from them that the beautiful alien music came. They seemed to be locked in a state of religious bliss and from them came the voice of angels. No two of them sang the same song or tune, yet it all inexplicably blended together to create something indescribably moving.

Suddenly it came to me that I'd heard it before. At night, after any assault, such a song could be heard faintly off in the distance in the enemy camp. I'd even heard it a time or two over the noise of activity during the day.

The sanctuary itself was huge, measuring perhaps two hundred fifty paces across and more than a hundred in height. It was a perfect hemisphere of immense proportions. There were innumerable torches, candles and braziers burning, illuminating the entire room, clear to the top. The wall was covered in a single enormous painting. The bottom twenty feet or so was a giant band of sky blue, on which was painted a series of scenes, stretching clear around the room. It appeared to be a story, but I did not know what story. Above that the sky blue faded to dark black with a positively enormous representation of the night sky. It was one of the largest maps ever created in the history of man, and it was nearly as accurate as any you could find even to this day. Only one other ever rivaled it, but that is a story for another time.

Even beyond all that, the first thing in the room to draw the eye was something that was utterly unknown to me. In the precise center of the room stood an enormous sphere made of marble and gold. It stood on a small pedestal, but it was nearly twelve feet across. There were large, irregular areas, which were inlayed with gold. I had never seen anything like it before and my curiosity ate at me, yet I felt that with people here, silence was golden.

As we crossed the room behind the singing men, one man near the back of the congregation happened to open his eyes. His song trailed off and he stood, turned and stared at me. The man next to him apparently noticed his friends silence, looked up at him and followed his gaze, then joined him with an identical stare. More and more voices dropped off and in a few moments the entire group was on its feet staring, some even whispering among themselves.

The high priest noticed the sudden silence and came to a stop, looking back to see what was wrong. The man who had first notice us stepped apart from the group and took a couple steps toward us and stopped. He was draped in a brightly colored cloak the quality of which I had never before seen. He swung one half of the cloak over his shoulder to reveal an extremely polished bronze breastplate and I could see that he carried a helmet to match under his other arm. I stared back at him in sudden recognition. This had to be the same man I had seen come up to the Lumere five years ago. The same man who had delivered the proclamation led us on a path to war. I had been too far to see his face, but I had only ever seen one set of armour like that before.

My escort moved to put himself between us when suddenly the armored man stood stock straight and raised his right arm, fist clenched, across his chest, as if in salute. The high priest said something to him in a language that I had never heard before, but he sounded rather testy. The armored man raised his hands in a symbol of surrender and returned to his group. We quickly continued on our way though I continued to hear whispers behind us until we were out the door.

"What was that all about?" I asked when we were clear of the temple.

"They recognized you," he said. "Over the last three years you made your presence and your skill well known to the enemy. They respect you, and they fear you; and your friend Anai with you. Because you are who you are, they may consider you a potential threat. The enemy has been remarkably civil thus far, but history tells us that occupations usually tend to be uglier than the war. You and your friend need to lay low for a while.

We walked on in silence for a bit as he escorted me home under the mid-afternoon sun. There were imperial soldiers everywhere, they actually outnumbered the population of the city now. Most of the army was made up of men from the surrounding cities but there were several groups whose people I couldn't identify. I gathered that the men in the temple were from Atlantis; but there appeared to be men from nearly every civilization in the world in this army. I guess this was a popular war...

As we came down the road to my home we were greeted by an excited shout as Anai bounded into view; scooped me up in a giant hug and twirled me around. We had both grown in the last three years, but Anai now exceeded six feet and stood head and shoulders taller than I. He nearly crushed me in his embrace. He was still lanky but he was very strong.

"I was worried I'd never see you again," he said as he set me back on the ground. "How are you feeling? I must say; you're looking a damn sight better than the last time I saw you. I thought the Te'Ata here had caved your head in."

"It's good to see you again scamp," I said to him with a smile. Even with the way I was feeling, Anai could still make me smile. We had tried three times in the last three years to make something more of our relationship. Each time, we were so tired, that we fell asleep at the first kiss. Once is chance, twice is coincidence, thrice is conspiracy; we left it at that. When the gods themselves say no, even adolescents will get the point... eventually. We vowed then that we would be the best of friends until the end of the world; if only we had known how true that vow had been. "I'm better, now that he stitched and plastered my head back together."

"I had to open your head to put some gray stuff in there," said the high priest, joining into the conversation. "Yours had apparently all leaked out."

I bit back a remark that probably would have gotten me turned onto a tent peg then and there, and we walked on to the house. Anai told me that ours was one of the only houses in the city that was not housing imperial soldiers. Thus far, there had been very few cases of rape and other abuse from them. While there was some looting, it was mainly restricted to homes and shops that now stood empty because the occupants had all died. In some neighborhoods all the loot was piled up and burned; believed contaminated by the plague, and the houses burned (where possible). To anyone's knowledge, there had only been two summary executions; a man who had killed one of the enemy commanders guards while ****** an attempt on the commander, and an imperial soldier who had been caught raping and murdering a young woman.

Because he had woodworking skills, Anai had been conscripted to work in the shipyard, helping to repair damaged ships. This wasn't too much of a hardship for him, he had always dreamed of owning his own ship someday and sailing the world in it. Anything that got him closer to the sea was fine by him. It was mostly their ships being repaired, most of our ships had been stripped, cut up, and used for firewood or other lumber needs during the long siege. He told us of another ship that had just arrived this morning, the largest ship he had ever seen. He was stunned by the sheer size of it. He estimated it at one hundred thirty to one hundred fifty paces in length and nearly a hundred in width; it was too tall to even fit under the Lumere so it had anchored just outside the wall.

When I asked him about Ata he seemed to lose his excitement about the ship.

Anai stopped for a moment and looked from me to the high priest and back. "Something's very wrong," he said, suddenly very serious. "I can see it in his face, but he won't tell me anything. It started just after the surrender but it eats at him more and more each day. It got a lot worse this morning so I'm fairly certain it has something to do with that ship."

The Te'Ata spoke up with an equally serious voice; "Sometimes there are terrible things which you cannot change. It can sometimes be a blessing not to know about those things until they occur, instead of watching helplessly as fate approaches. Sadly, your Ata does not have that luxury; he is in a position at the moment where he must know everything that transpires here. If you do not know yet, then count yourselves amongst the blessed."

We both gave him looks of profoundest interest, but he would say no more on the subject. I began to get a very bad feeling about where this was going.

We came to the house to find Ata knee deep in his cups and looking positively miserable. The last I'd seen him looking so awful was when Ama and Amana passed away; however, I had never seen Ata drunk before, at least never that drunk. He could barely even look up when we entered, standing was out of the question. There were four empty wine bottles on the table next to him and he was working on a fifth; and ****** good headway.

The high priest stepped around us to Ata. He snatched the bottle out of his hands and flung it violently across the room, shattering it against the wall. In an instant Ata was on his feet (sort of anyway). His hands were balled in fists as he glared at the priest with a murderous look in his eyes. The high priest glared right back at him with an equally violent look. Time stood on it's ear for a few seconds then Ata swayed a little and fell back down in his chair; fell through the chair and ended up sprawled out on the floor and laughing.

The high priest looked at me and said with disgust; "Sober him up. When he's sober tell him I want to see him in my chambers tomorrow at noon." With that he turned and left us with Ata, who was now close to hysterics.

Ata rolled over onto his hands and knees and was able to bring himself under some semblance of control. He swept aside the pieces of the shattered chair and said: "It's broken, everything, everything is broken. Everything I've ever touched is broken and come to ruin."

"Not everything Ata," I said gently. "You still have us. Not all is lost."

He looked up with a startled expression as if suddenly noticing that we were there and sat there staring at us for a moment.

"Anai" he said. "Bring ush three chairsh. Maia, get shree cups.

Anai hurried out of the room to find chairs as I gathered the cups. I wondered what exactly he was up to. I wondered if he even knew. Returning to the table, I found that Ata had somehow, from somewhere, procured two more bottles of wine and a bottle of something the color of amber. Anai returned with the chairs and we got Ata settled in one. I passed the cups around and watched in confusion as Ata shakily filled them with the amber colored liquid.

"Drink," he said, then he picked up his cup and drained it.

I picked up the cup and smelled it. For half a second I entertained the thought of using it as a weapon against the imperial soldiers. I had never smelled anything quite so revolting in my life. Seriously; I had lived through three years of war, plague and death and literally never smelled anything that horrific. Nearly fourteen thousand years later I'm still glad that the recipe for it was lost with Katai.

Anai appeared to have had the same reaction to the vile stuff that I did and was now eyeing it and Ata dubiously. I gave Ata a mildly bewildered look (he couldn't possibly mean for me to actually drink the stuff did he?)

"You've both grown into fine warriorsh; but a warrior needs to be able to drink. We drink to celebrate, to remember... to forget. Now drink!"

His tone left no room for doubt, in either of us. I took a couple of deep breaths, gathered my nerve, and drained the glass. The next thing I knew, I was racing for the front door to vomit. The stuff burned like fire going down. My throat attempted to close off to keep the vile contents out, but a moment too late. My stomach immediately rebelled. As I knelt there at the door heaving, I noticed Anai right there next to me, looking as though he had just thrown up his toes.

After a few moments, Ata set a bottle down next to each of us. I looked up and gave him a look of profound distrust but eventually relented and opened the bottle. I had never really had wine before. What little I had had when Ata and Ama thought I was old enough (just before the war) had been watered down. When the war started all the wine in the city had been appropriated for medical use; and the few times I had it then, it had been drugged, so I don't remember much.

I pulled the stopper out of the bottle and sniffed at it suspiciously. It was a balm to the senses after the assault of the first drink. I gulped it greedily and almost wound up throwing up again. The stuff was considerably stronger than it smelled; it wasn't bad mind you, it would just take some getting used to. It did however, succeed in washing the taste of that awful stuff out of my mouth. It took a couple of minutes, but I managed to put my stomach to rest, then Ata and I helped Anai back inside and to a chair.

"You actually drink this stuff," asked Anai who was looking rather green?

"And you will too," replied Ata as he poured us each another cup of the amber colored brew.

We watched in stunned silence as he drained another cup without even flinching. I wouldn't have believed it was possible, but apparently people actually enjoyed this stuff.

"Come on," he said. "Drink! It builds character; puts hair on your chest..." He looked at me very drunkenly and realized what he'd just said. "... Present company excluded. It goes down a little easier if you follow it with the wine."

I had absolutely no intention of being the one to go first this time, so I turned and gave Anai my best 'after you' look.

"And to think," Anai shot back at me with a wry grin; "All those times I covered your ass, and you're gonna make me go first. It's nice to know I have friends... I really wish I knew who they were."

He picked up the cup, took a deep breath and drank. His expression was priceless as he suddenly turned from lightly green to scarlet and back. He managed (Just barely, mind you) to keep from throwing up long enough to fumble for the wine bottle and take a long pull from it. As he lowered the bottle, he had a dazed and slightly glazed expression (not to mention slightly queasy) and he put his head on the table for a moment. Ata turned his gaze to me.

I thought 'what the hell, Anai survived, I probably will too; and if I don't, well, I wasn't planning on living forever anyway... ' Irony is a bitch, but fate is the mother of all bitches.

Grabbing the bottle in one hand and the cup in the other, I looked Ata in the eye and swallowed the vile liquid, then almost instantly washed it down with the wine. He had been right. It did go better that way. My stomach only had a chance to give one premature heave before the wine chased the horror away. I looked to Ata as I felt myself begin to glow and saw a look of satisfaction on his face.

I don't remember very much about that night; only a couple of details, emotions, sensations. One of the few things that I remember clearly is what it all felt like. For those of you who have been drunk before (and I imagine that most of you have at one time or another), you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those of you who haven't, well; the only way I can describe it is: try to imagine feeling like the flavor of sugar. I'm sorry, but that is the best description that I can give. I don't mean merely the concept of feeling sweet, but actually feeling like a specific flavor-sugar.

I remember being dizzy and not feeling very good. I think I remember throwing up a time or three. The last thing I do remember of that night was Ata crying in my lap and begging my forgiveness. I had never seen him cry before, not even when Ama and Amana passed away; it scared me a bit.

The next day dawned bright and clear. I sincerely wished it hadn't dawned at all. If you've ever had a hangover before then you know what I mean. If you haven't then let me tell you of this little joy that the gods created for us...

First, it felt as though I'd stubbed my head. I've taken blows to the head before in battle; they felt like lovers kisses in comparison. Any sound at all gave me the wondrous sensation that my head had just popped. Movement had much the same effect. Second was the feeling that my tongue needed to be mowed. In all my years I've discovered very few things that can match that sensation and taste, and I wouldn't recommend that you try. Last, and probably worst, was the feeling that if I even thought about food I was going to barf up my ancestors.

With the apocalypse going on inside my head and stomach, I climbed out of bed and answered natures call. The birds chirping outside sounded like a flock of pterodactyls circling the house, which made it rather difficult to concentrate on the task at hand. The sun was as bad as everything else. The light felt like someone was driving icicles into my brain. My task completed, I retreated to the house, only to be welcomed by the smell of food.

After greeting my ancestors for a few minutes I managed to make it back to the house again, this time somewhat more prepared for what awaited me there. Ata was at the fire ****** us breakfast.

Ata was a warrior without peer. He was a great leader of men and a brilliant mind. Sadly, he couldn't cook to save his immortal soul; so what awaited me in his pan reminded me of what had just happened to me outside. He looked up from the massacre he was committing and smiled wanly.

"Pour yourself a little more of last nights fun," he said in a voice that sounded like death warmed over. "That should clear your head and your stomach for a while. I poured a cup of the vile concoction with trepidation.

"Sip it," he said. "You're just looking to take the edge off, not get drunk again."

After gagging on the horrid stuff, I managed to choke out, "Where's Anai?"

Ata gave a crooked smile and said, "The coward took one look at breakfast and decided to take his chances with the slop they feed the work crews at the shipyard. He left about ten minutes ago."

I looked again at the unidentifiable heap he was cooking up and said, "You call that breakfast? It looks more like something we used to do to the enemy."

He smiled and said, "Under normal circumstances, I'd say 'fine, you don't get any.' But right now I need your head clear. We have much to discuss today."

"Such as?" I asked.

Ata paused for a moment, looking distant, and said, "Your present and your future."

We sat and ate breakfast quietly, without a word. It honestly wasn't as bad as it had looked, though to this day I have absolutely no idea what it was. Some sort of fish I think, though after what Ata had done, modern science wouldn't have been able to identify which kind.

Ata seemed to be deeply troubled and seeing him like this made me more and more nervous. I couldn't quite put my finger on it but it felt as if the axe of doom were about to fall.

After we had eaten, he sighed, sat back and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them it was almost as if there were someone else there. I could see a resolve in his eyes that had not been there before, and a sadness that etched lines in his face.

"Maia," he said. "I cannot begin to express how proud I am of you. I watched as you cast your childhood aside and placed yourself between those that you love and harm. In the face of horrors that no one should ever have to see, you hung on tighter and fought harder and have become a warrior almost without peer. You rallied the people to fight when seasoned warriors would have fled."

"Together we have outfought them and out thought them for three years. It is because of that very spirit that they allowed us to live and maintain some degree of sovereignty. But the Imperial army did not simply say 'o.k., you're done, we can stop fighting now.' There were conditions to the surrender; and they affect you directly. I need you... Katai needs you to be brave once again."

I was beginning to get an odd sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. You know, that feeling you get that something extraordinarily bad is about to happen; yeah, that sinking feeling.

"You're beginning to scare me Ata," I said. "How can it affect me directly other than I'm no longer allowed to carry weapons and I must be indoors by sundown? Oh yes, and I'm not allowed to defend myself if their soldiers try to rape me!"

I could see the conflict in his eyes. I could tell that he would rather do anything but tell me what he had to say. Again that grim resolve descended; I could watch the change come over him. Then he spoke the words that ended my world.

"You were part of the surrender agreement, you and fifteen other youths."

I blinked, and asked; "You said what?"

"The ship anchored outside the Lumere is an Imperial slave transport. It's here for you," he replied. "You are to be taken to Atlantis to be a treaty hostage."

My world started to crack. I shook my head and said desperately, "no."

"You will serve there for ten years. If Katai keeps the peace, you will be returned to us."

I covered my ears and shook my head harder, trying to will this doom not to be. It was beyond unfair. It was unjust. It was a death sentence or worse; the sailors, the brothels or the altar. "No no no no... ," I whimpered.

He continued; "We will keep the peace. I will see you again. But for now, you need to be strong again."

My world started to crumble.

"Nonononononono," I cried.

"You sail on the afternoon tide tomorrow."

My world utterly collapsed.

All the walls and defenses that I'd built came crashing down around my feet in an instant. In that instant, fear and worse, rage, boiled over and I did the unthinkable. I lashed out at Ata.

"NO!" I shrieked, advancing on him. "How could you DO this to me?!"

"Maia, I had no choice," he said, standing his ground.

"Well I do!" I bellowed. "I'm not going!" I delete here, a long string of expletives that followed, that have no relevant translation in any modern tongue.

"Yes you are," he replied, his expression becoming stern.

"A slave Ata, you've sold me as a slave!

"It's not like that. They set the terms, we had no choice but to agree to them."

"Don't hand me that crap!" I slammed my hand into the wall trying to vent some of the pain and betrayal I felt. "There is always a choice in anything you do! You could have chosen another girl."

"What, you think I chose you?" He roared. Ata could be the most terrifying sight when he was angered, but I was too angry myself to care. "As I said, they set the terms! If we hadn't agreed to them they would have marched in here and put the entire city to the sword! And if you refuse to go they may yet do so! You are a member of the royal family and my daughter. Like me, you have a responsibility to your people that is greater than any personal or family feelings. You WILL do this if I have to have you bind you and put you on the ship myself!

I turned away from him trying to take all the pent up emotions out on him. I felt betrayed by the person I trusted most in this world and believed that he had sold me like a piece of art in the town market. After everything we had been through, after all we had heard through the years about the empire; I could not believe that he had actually agreed to such terms. I felt my heart die and sink in my chest. The ice that filled me must have covered my eyes when I turned back to face Ata.

"You hate me, don't you?" he asked in the barest of whispers.

"Of course I hate you!" I screamed. "I never want to see you again. I hope you rot in hell for what you have done. Trust me when I say you will never see me again. You are not my Ata! You are dead to me!"

"So be it," he said in a resigned voice. "Just remember what brought you to this place."

The pain in my hand calmed my anger enough for me to breathe and as I stomped out the door, I put my fist deep into the wood; signing my goodbye in blood.

I ran. As I ran I cried, I sobbed. I had to get out of the city, to hide. That was my only conscious thought as I wound my way through the city. I spent as much time hiding as I did running; I had no desire to be seen, especially by imperial troops.

There were a couple of spots where we used to be able to sneak out during the siege to pilfer food. Two of these spots were in what were now very public places, too much chance of being seen. The third was in the process of being built over. When I got to the last one, there were several soldiers standing nearby. I hid in an abandoned building nearby for over an hour for any ***********. I had been beginning to reconsider my options, fearing that they were never going to leave, when they all apparently realized that they had pressing business elsewhere (probably lunch).

I poked my head out and, seeing no one, dashed out and through the hole in the wall. As soon as I was clear of the wall, I sprinted for the hills, heading down the coast. I ran until my lungs were on fire. I ran until my legs felt like jelly. I ran until my mind screamed in agony and begged me to stop; and then I ran a little more.

Finally I collapsed in a heap and just lay there sobbing for what seemed like hours. I could not believe the injustice of it all. If I stayed, I would be taken across the ocean as a slave. If I chose to flee, where could I flee to? Either way, Katai was lost to me.

For the first time in my life I was frozen in terror and indecision. Waves of panic rolled over me and I was utterly lost and alone. A couple of times there, my thoughts drifted towards ending my existence, but I had been down that road before and knew where it led.

Eventually I managed to get some form of grip on myself and attempted to think... and think... and got nothing. Every idea I could come up with was impossible or otherwise doomed to fail. There was no hope.

At long last, in desperation, I thought to invoke the aid of the gods themselves. I looked up at an indistinct form in the distance and wiped my eyes. When I looked again, the island of Iulia stood off in the water, about a mile out. A cold knot formed in my stomach; I could not believe that I was even considering such a thing. It would be deliberate defiance of the law of the gods, but it was also my only hope.

I looked up and saw that the sun would be down in about an hour. If the gods didn't strike me down, I would be swimming home across a mile of open water, in the dark. I made my way down to the beach and cautiously looked around. Seeing no one, I took off my clothes and hid them behind some bushes. I figured that a swimmer wouldn't be seen from the city, but I was wary that someone might be out looking for me.

I slipped into the water and began to swim. It was a long way and I began to fear that I had made a terrible mistake in thinking that I could make it, when I looked up into the gathering night and realized that I was almost there. My muscles were on fire and screaming when I sprinted the last few desperate strokes and crawled my way up onto the shore of the forbidden isle.

I lay there shivering from exhaustion and quaking in fear. I now lay where only the gods and the high priest were allowed to set foot. I felt as though I might be struck down at any moment, but so would anyone who tried to follow me.

I lay there until after full dark, waiting to die for my sin, but no death came for me. No lightning bolt from the heavens, no horrible demons rose to devour my soul as they devoured my body. I finally gathered my courage and stumbled down the beach to the temple.

Even in the near absolute darkness of the night the temple was easy to find. A light burned inside which illuminated the doorway. I approached the ancient building cautiously, wondering what the source of the light might be. If there was anyone else here then I was truly doomed. The gods would not have to slay me, the priests or the imperial soldiers would do it for them. I was a young girl, alone, weak and naked; if I were not alone on the island I would not be able to put up any kind of a fight.

I crept up to the open doorway and listened. I listened for many long minutes and heard nothing. Satisfied that nothing was moving within, I crept softly inside. I found myself in a hallway that stretched off at right angles to the door along the front wall of the building. There were no torches present. What light there was seemed to filter in through the doors at either end of the hall.

I went to the right, creeping quietly. Just because no one was ****** any noise didn't mean that no one was here. I reached the door at the end of the hall to find, to my astonishment, that instead of letting into another hallway, it let into what appeared to be a natural tunnel going back farther than I could see. The light seemed to be coming from everywhere within, glinting off of rock facets and crystals. Somewhere ahead of me I could hear an occasional drop of water and knew that that was my destination.

I went forward as quietly as I could, my heart hammering in my throat; fearing that each beat would be the last. The tunnel stretched on for perhaps a thousand feet and opened up into a cavern, about two hundred feet across. The cavern was well lit, but there were no torches or lamps anywhere at all. All light appeared to be emanating from a large pool of water directly in the center of the room.

There wasn't a soul here except for me and I breathed a small sigh of relief. Across the cavern I could see another tunnel heading back the way I came. I reasoned that it went to the other end of the hall at the entrance.

Emboldened by the fact that I was still among the living, I stepped out of my hiding place and walked across to the pool. The cavern floor around it was relatively smooth, almost polished. The water, while it seemed to glow, was the clearest I'd ever seen. I could see that the pool itself was only perhaps waist deep at its deepest point. I'd expected to find an altar of some sort, but the cavern was utterly devoid of any sign that man had ever set foot here.

There was a feeling in the air, almost electric. A serenity and otherworldliness that went to the very soul. I knew as soon as I set foot inside the chamber that this place was holy.

This was it. I had finally arrived at what I'd come here to do and I was almost too terrified to do it. I stepped up to the waters edge and said, "Gods forgive me;" and stepped into the pool. My mind cried for me to come to my senses and get out of the water, but it was too late; I was already IN the water.

I found a spot that was about hip deep and kneeled down in reverence. The water was warm, and I could feel strength ebbing into me from it as I knelt in prayer. I prayed hard. Harder than I'd ever prayed before. I begged the gods to protect me; mind, body and spirit.

As I prayed, I began to feel as though I wasn't alone in the room. Pausing in my prayer, I looked around and saw no one but myself. 'Just nerves, ' I thought, and went back to my prayer.

Again and again I begged and prayed for the gods protection, then, several things happened at once. From somewhere, an unfamiliar voice spoke. I had no time to hear what was said, because at the same instant, I felt a pair of hands wrap around my ankles and yank them out behind me, pitching me on my face. Simultaneously, another pair of hands pushed down on my shoulders, pushing me to the bottom of the pool and held me there.

My mind screamed in abject terror and my body followed suit. I thrashed and twisted against my unseen attackers but I was fighting a grip of iron. Suddenly my wrists were grabbed and my arms were pulled out to my sides, a crushing weight settled on my back driving the last bit of air from my lungs. My mind was frozen in fear and my body burned from lack of oxygen. I wish I could tell you that drowning was a quick death, but that would be a lie. I was held there for several minutes as I struggled more and more desperately. The pain was indescribable. Finally, the weight on my back suddenly disappeared, and my body reacted in the only way it could. I could feel my body begin to convulse as my lungs filled with water. The world began to fade and go black.

I was dying.

I was dead.

A bell tolled in the darkness; deep and low, as if the sound were coming across a vast distance. Around me was nothing, a void.

A bell tolled in the darkness; a little closer. A sheet of fire rose across my vision and faded just as fast. If I'd had a body, it would have evacuated itself at the sight, in fear of the hell that was just hinted at.

A bell tolled in the darkness; a little closer. A blinding light, a holy light, filled the void and my heart for a fleeting moment and was gone.

A bell tolled in the darkness; closer still. A shape, a symbol, vast in size took form before me; made of fire and holy light. It looked like a stretched figure eight, laid on its side. Then it too faded from view.

A bell tolled in the darkness, much closer. The image reappeared, only closer. I could see that there was something; a shape, at the nexus of the symbol. Then it faded again.

A bell tolled in the darkness, deafeningly. The image reappeared, much closer. I could feel the heat from the fire, and the light. The shape at the nexus was a figure, a person. With a shock of recognition, I realized that the person was me.

A bell tolled in the darkness accompanied with a feminine voice, which said; "It is done." My eyes snapped open. I was free. Still in a state of horror, I clawed my way to the surface. I stood up at the edge of the pool and vomited water by the lung full. I lay on the edge coughing, gagging and crying for a while as my mind retreated into the darkness. I don't know which scared me more, the fact that I had died, or the fact that I was alive. I was as weak as a newborn lamb and it was everything I could do to keep from sliding back under the water.

I don't know how long I laid there, hanging on for dear life, but I began to hear a scrabbling sound in the distance; as if someone were coming down the tunnel. I was too weak to care.

A voice called my name and then strong hands hauled me out of the water and rolled me over. I found myself staring up at the most beautiful sight I had ever seen; Anai, standing above me like a rescuing angel.

"What the hell are you doing here?" He screamed at me. "Have you gone completely mad? Are you trying to get yourself killed, or worse?"

I couldn't answer him. I couldn't even meet his gaze. A tidal wave of shame, grief and fear washed over me and all I could do was weep. I could not believe the things that I had said and done this day. My defiance; my presumption. How could I presume that my life or freedom was more important than the survival of our civilization? How could I have defied Ata, and said the things that I had said? All the things that I had learned, and relearned, and I had simply turned my back on it all and ran away. I had presumed upon the gods themselves, and they had reached down and spanked this offensive child with prejudice. I wouldn't find out until much later just how much prejudice.

Anai simply held me through the night as I cried myself out. He did his best to comfort me, but I was inconsolable. I had defied the most powerful empire on earth. I had defied the gods themselves. The one person that I simply could not defy was my Ata.

It was hours before I managed to cry myself out. When I had; I knew what I had to do. There was simply no choice. I had to face Ata. I couldn't leave with what had happened, knowing that we might never see each other again. I sniffled and dried my eyes, then looked up at Anai; and suddenly realized that I was stark naked, laying in the arms of a man, in what was probably the holiest site on earth. I turned beet red and curled up trying to hide my nakedness. I honestly have no idea why I was suddenly so self-conscious about it. Over the course of three years, Anai had seen me naked many times. We had changed together and bathed together, but I could not help the feeling. Fortunately he seemed to notice my reaction. He turned and grabbed a sack that was laying behind him, and from it pulled a blanket. I accepted gratefully and wrapped it around myself.

"Have you any idea how scared I was?" He asked. "I thought you were dead for sure, and you still might end up that way, and me alongside you if we don't get out of here. Now!"

He didn't ask what had happened and I was too terrified to speak of it. He got up and helped me to my feet, and I leaned on his shoulder as I staggered back up the tunnel.

"How did you find me?" I asked, confused. I had figured that this would be the last place on earth that anyone would have thought to look.

Anai gave me a very curious look and replied; "When Ata told me you'd run off and why, I went to the temple to see if you had taken sanctuary there. When I asked the high priest, he got a sudden look of alarm and ordered me to come here. He told me to wait till night and smuggle out a small boat. I don't know why, but he seemed to know that you'd be here. He told me to come get you and to be off the island before first light, which is going to be very soon, so we need to move.

We broke into a run, fear propelling us. When we got back to the entrance, it was still dark out, but the sky was beginning to show the first hints of false-dawn.

"Hurry, this way!" He said in a loud whisper. I followed him as we ran a little way down the beach. Through the gloom I could see the outline of a small boat pulled up on the beach. I tossed the blanket into the boat and helped Anai drag it back into the water, climbed in with him and we rowed like hell itself was after us, all the way back to the mainland.

By the time we got back to shore, false-dawn had already brightened up the sky. Fortunately a boat that small would be nearly impossible to spot at that distance in the dim light. We beached the boat and hid it back in the trees, then spent two hours looking for where I had hidden my clothes. It would be very difficult to explain to anyone who might see us that I had been out all night, with a man, and was now returning home with no clothes on.

When we found them, and I'd dressed, we headed back to the city. It was about an hour before midday when we slipped onto the road and approached the main gate. I was terrified the guards would query us about where we were coming from, but they merely searched us for weapons and passed us through. I had never been searched before and I felt that the guard who patted me down took a little too much enjoyment in his work, but I didn't dare say anything about it. As we headed down the street, I felt like I needed to bathe.

As we made our way across the city I had a growing sense of apprehension. I dreaded facing Ata again after the things I had said. Each step I took closer to home got heavier and heavier. What had happened to me in the cave would pale in comparison to what Ata would do to me, I feared.

When at last we arrived at home, Anai stopped at the gate, smiled and said; "Just call me when it's safe to come in, and I'll come help see you off."

I looked into his eyes and saw the fear and regret in them, feelings that were mirrored by my own. Here was the man whom I'd grown up with, who I'd fought side by side with, cried with, nearly died with on many occasions. I had shared my deepest thoughts, hopes and fears with him. I loved him so very much, but fate had made sure that nothing could ever come of it. This I felt was perhaps the most tragic thing about it, and I was almost overcome again. Finally, I turned and went in.

My feet were very near to quaking as I stepped into the house. Ata sat at the table and stood when he saw me. My heart caught in my throat, I had no idea what to say. All I could do was stand there, and wait for him to cast me out; an orphan with no house.

"I knew you would return," he said, his voice gentle and sad. "I knew you would do the right thing in the end. I even gathered your things for you."

In the corner were two small bags. All I would be able to take with me from this life would be the contents of two small bags; not more than two changes of clothes and a couple of toiletries. Turning again to Ata, I could see the loss in his eyes already, could see the fight to keep his emotions in check: a fight that he lost in the end.

"Maia," he said as his voice finally broke a little; "Please tell me you can forgive me. I cannot bear to see you go from this house like this. I love you too much for that." He held open his arms and I ran into his embrace.

"Me forgive you?" I asked through my own tears. "I came here to beg your forgiveness. After the things that I'd said, I didn't think there was any hope of me getting it."

"You had every right to be angry, you still do. What's happening isn't fair, but life seldom is. The world is a hard and dangerous place, and you need to learn to accept things you cannot change. It's a harsh and terrible lesson, but there it is. Gods Maia, you know if there were any other way Ilimak and I would have taken it."

There was nothing more to say. I knew that we had forgiven each other. We just held each other for a while, knowing that this might be the last time we would ever be able to do so. Ata broke the silence first.

"Just promise me one thing," he said. "Promise me that you will serve with honor, that you will keep your wits about you, and that you will stay alive; so that in the end, you may come home."

I nodded and said, "Yes Ata."

He held me out at arms length and said, "Then go and get Anai. I have some food ready; I figured you would be hungry. We have time for one last meal before you go."

It was a modest meal, food was still a little scarce. The three of us made a little small talk, but there wasn't much left to say. I think we were all a afraid to think of it anymore. When we'd finished, I helped clear the table for the last time. I walked around our house one last time, burning every detail into my memory. Finally, Anai picked up my bags, and with one last backward look we headed for the harbor.

We found the harbor bustling with activity. The shipyards had gone back into full production, swelled mostly by imperial soldiers for the moment. A large number of smaller boats were ****** their way out through the Lumere, loaded with supplies and people. The Lumere gates; which had been badly damaged during the war, had been taken dawn and dragged ashore and were being repaired.

I looked out through the open sea-gate and saw the most incredible thing that I had ever seen in my life. The ship was positively massive. It was the largest moving object ever made by the hand of man. It was so mind bogglingly huge that I could not see the entire length of it through the gate, but two of its masts could be seen over the top of the wall.

The docks were pandemonium. Scores of people stood there crying and wailing as their loved ones were taken from them into slavery, while guards held back the crowd and made sure that there were no incidents.

Ata had me wait with Anai while he went and sought out the shoremaster to find out which boat I was to go on. As we waited for his return we saw the high priest worked his way to us.

"Thank Lumis you found her," he said to Anai. Then, turning to me he paused and stared for a moment. A look of infinite sadness came over him. "So, it has happened then," he said. "Just as I saw it. You have been touched by the gods themselves Maia; though for good or ill I do not know. I only know that you have a great destiny before you. You will know great joy, and greater sorrow."

Anai gave me a very confused look, but I tried to pretend to be just as confused as he was. I hadn't told him what had happened to me on the island just before he had ofund me. I was terrified of it enough, I didn't wish to scare him.

The high priest took my head in his hands; said a benediction and kissed my forehead. "There are sixteen going, including yourself," he said. "You will be oldest and chiefest amongst them. They will look to you for guidance and protection during the voyage. You must rise to the occasion, just as you rose to it during the war."

I bowed my head under the weight of this further responsibility. "Yes Te'Ata," I said.

He smiled sadly and said; "May Lumis shelter you and give you peace Maia. I shall pray every day for your safe return." With that, he turned and mad his way back down the docks, looking for other souls that needed his services.

Ata returned and led us to a boat that was loading further down the pier. When we got there he stopped and turned to face me. He reached into his robe and pulled out a long golden tube. My eyes filled with tears again as he handed my telescope to me.

"I think you can get away taking this with you," he said through his own tears. "Remember what I taught you, and maybe someday this will help you find your way home. Gods I love you Maia. You look so much like your Ama. Maybe this would have been easier on you if you had grown to be like her. Instead you wound up just like me; a warrior. I should have made sure you stayed home and learned the ways of the hearth, not the ways of the world."

"I love you Ata." It was all I could bear to say to him. I turned to Anai and said, "You take care of him." There was so much more that I wanted to say to them, but couldn't get the words out around the lump in my throat. Finally I pulled them both into an embrace and hugged them until I thought I would break them; then turned wordlessly and climbed into the boat.

When I found a seat and turned to look back they were gone. My heart broke. I had imagined them watching me until my boat reached the ship and I disappeared from sight. I cried silently for a while as more cargo was loaded.

Eventually the boat was fully loaded and we cast off, the oarsmen pushing us away from the pier and rowing for the Lumere. There were six other boats in front of us loaded with supplies and children. As we approached the sea-gate, I heard people yelling from atop the wall. I looked up and there were Ata and Anai standing in the middle of the throng and yelling my name.

When Ata had last sailed through the Lumere with the fleet, I had stood up there with the families of the sailors and showered them with flowers as a blessing of safe voyage. Now Ata and Anai stood there raining flowers down upon me. As we passed under the gate, I stood there waving; etching that last look at their faces into my memory. Anai climbed up onto the arrow shelf where we had once hurled our defiance at the enemy and kept waving at me.

When I finally turned around, I gasped; awed by the sheer size of the ship in front of us. Anai had not been joking. It was an imperial trimaran, more than four hundred feet in length. She had three of the tallest masts that I had ever seen in the center and two slightly shorter masts on each of the outer hulls. It looked like they had used entire trees to make them, for they stood over a hundred feet in height. The rigging was like nothing I'd ever seen before. I didn't think that there had been that much rope in the entire fleet that had left here almost four years ago. Just due to her sheer length, her sides were higher than any ship I had ever even heard of. On all other imperial ships I had seen, the three hulls were joined in such a way that the two outer ones could be detached and used independently if necessary. On this leviathan, the hulls were permanently joined together by a section that appeared to be two decks deep. She was heavily armed; bearing a huge, deck mounted crossbow on the bow of each hull and on the stern of the two outer ones.

As we approached, I could see many rope ladders hanging over the side. There were several other boats still unloading there but we appeared to be the last ones coming. When a spot finally opened up, we pulled up to one of these ladders and the boat master told me to go up. This was it, my life as a slave was about to begin. I tied my bags together and slung them over my shoulder, tucked my telescope into my belt and climbed up to the deck.

It was like an alien world on the ship. I had been on ships before but nothing like this. In addition to the literally miles of rope, every square inch of the ship was smooth and polished. There were hundreds of people on board, people of every nationality I'd ever heard of, and even more that I hadn't. The place was a beehive of activity. Nearly everyone was helping unload the boats and getting the cargo stowed.

A large man with dark brown skin came up to me and rattled off something in a language that I'd never heard before and pointed to an area on the deck where the other slaves were being gathered. I couldn't understand his words but I got the idea of what he was trying to tell me. I went over to the gathering area. I took a head count and saw that I was the last one to arrive. Most of the others were small children, eight to ten years old. There were only three of us that were in our teens, a girl I recognized as one of my sisters friends, and a tall boy who looked to have just hit his teens.

We were more or less ignored as the ship was being loaded. Occasionally we would have to scurry out of the way of sailors running about on deck carrying out their tasks. At some length the loading was completed and all the boats returned to the city.

A loud command was given in Atlantean and many men suddenly ran below decks while many others ran to a large wheel on the forward mast. They took long poles out of a large box nearby and inserted them into holes in the side of the wheel, then gathered in groups of five on each pole. Another command was shouted from the very back of the ship and the men started turning that great wheel, and as they worked, they sang a chant. I noticed a very thick rope begin to wind itself around the wheel and followed it to the bow of the ship, where it disappeared over the side. They were hauling up the anchor stone.

I looked to the stern to see where the commands were coming from and I saw two men standing there. A man who appeared to be from Ngoro-Tai was holding the rudder bar while a large black man bellowed orders. At another loud shout from him there was a scraping noise from below, and hundreds of oars were shipped out the sides of the hulls and dipped into the water.

Finally, the anchor stone was hauled out of the water and secured. The large black man bellowed another command and several hundred oars began carving into the water to the beat of a drum, below decks. The great ship began to move.

When we got about a mile out to sea, the wind picked up. Another command was bellowed, and most of the men on deck scrambled up the many rope ladders into the rigging. They went up and along the spars as if they had been born in them; and began untying and unfurling the massive sails. I had never seen so much canvas in my entire life. The men on deck sand as they heaved on lines, pulling some sails up, dropping others. The thousands of square feet of canvas began to fill with the wind and the great ship began to pick up speed. Another shout, and the oars were pulled in and stowed. All around us, men began to sing as they worked. The sixteen of us stood and watched as Katai shrank behind us, and ever so slowly, sank beneath the horizon.

I wept bitterly, and I was not alone. When at last I had cried myself out, I turned my face to the opposite horizon, to the future that awaited us. I vowed never to cry again; my god, if only it were that simple.

So many times I've wished that I could give all the days I've had, from then till now for just one more glimpse of my childhood home; long since lost beneath the waves, but it was not to be. I never laid eyes on my beloved Katai again.

08-03-2007, 12:43 AM
read it on other site nicely done FN

08-03-2007, 12:47 AM
:) Thank you WW. Sadly these 2 sites don't get NEARLY the traffic as the other place I post...

Posted this chapter there at noon, it got put up at one. It's now 4:45 ast, and I've got 289 downloads already. Sadly, this chapter apparently such a hit there. My score is starting to take a nose dive...

08-03-2007, 01:03 AM
what other site

08-03-2007, 02:52 AM
awesome frozen...just trying to figure out why some words are marked out with *****

08-03-2007, 07:58 PM
apparently the computer doesn't like the word "******". From what I can tell, every time I used that word it got reformatted as ******. Don't ask me why.

08-03-2007, 10:32 PM
I asked....it's to help block spammers...anyone that wants it adjusted just needs to PM a mod and let us use a different word...or whatever they want to do...certain words are going to get the STAR **** treatment...lol

08-03-2007, 10:41 PM
Have you read the story concept and next chapter outline yet?

08-03-2007, 10:49 PM
was going to work on it tonight :) I"m finally off days and can get shit done now...lol

08-03-2007, 10:54 PM
I'm supposed to start getting together with a guy next week to start doing some research on sailing.

08-03-2007, 10:59 PM
That's awesome...good thing cause that's not something I know anything about

08-03-2007, 11:07 PM
:) me neither, and the next 3 or 4 chapters at least, are going to be aboard ship.

08-03-2007, 11:11 PM
research research research...lmao