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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Marooned; a Narenta Tumults novel. Chapter 1

Marooned; a Narenta Tumults novel 

Sherry Thompson & Caprice Hokstad 

Early autumn!

Chapter One
(final draft)

She felt like she was awakening from a nightmare to find herself in a dream. Chaotic memories of fire, howling or screaming and fierce wind were replaced in a breath by cool dim blue and a gentle tug she couldn't identify.

She opened her lids, and shook her head, blinking rapidly as water tingled against her eyes. A brief chill gripped her. She braced herself against it, tugged now in the opposite direction. She found she could raise her face above water level. Taking a great breath, she tried to look around. Was it night? Billowing blue surrounded her. Her head was being pulled or pushed downward by something, until her chin dipped back into the water. The tug reversed again. Tide. Water lapped up her spine and flowed across the back of her head and down her face. Lifting her head, she struggled to keep her nose above the surface. 

She was kneeling. As she worked to stand up, new sensations merged with the flow of the water and the dim blue. Her left hand wouldn't move and there was something wrong with her right shin and the toes of her right foot. The world tilted upright, as she realized the shin of her right leg was level with the water-logged surface, while her left leg was drawn up under her, the knee only inches from her chin. What was wrong with her left hand? She concentrated on making it move, and succeeded in producing only a light stir of fingers. The toes and instep of her right foot were immobile as well.

Water rushed away from her face and she gulped a new breath of air. She couldn't keep doing this. She had to stand up.

Pulling with every muscle of her left arm, she felt her hand slide upward through something rough, then realized that it had been buried within the sands of the invisible shoreline. Once her hand and right foot were free, she took a great breath and fought with every muscle until her body lurched upward into something close to a standing position. Weight dragged at her, Metal clanged a gentle protest. She staggered and almost fell face forward, crumbling again to hands and knees.

The second effort was more successful. As she struggled for balance on trembling legs, she reached up to her face and tried to brush away the heavy something dragging at it. It lifted upward and brightness lanced into her eyes from below - the glance of strong sun on silky water.

She closed her eyes in anticipation of an even greater onslaught and tugged the cape back from her head, feeling its weight spill down her back as it plunged into its proper place.

The red warmth of her blood pulsed against her eyelids, warning of the brightness beyond. She opened them a trifle and saw the sparkle on the crest of a wavelet heading away from her. Following it with her eyes gave her the first glimpse of the true shoreline, only yards away and marred with dark green vegetation against its dusky soil. Green. She shuddered, then found herself smiling at the shudder. What was wrong with green? Who cared what color dry land was when one was half-waterlogged?

Sunlight sparkling on overhanging leaves prompted her to look toward the source of the light. The sun was on her left and behind her, low in the deep periwinkle blue cloud-ribboned sky. She had better get to shore and try to get oriented a bit before sunset. She started forward, accompanied by the same unmusical ding of metal that had sounded moments ago. Glancing down as she strode through the small breakers, she realized she was clad in finely-made chainmail. A tooled leather belt was about her waist, with two dagger sheathes dangling from it. The one on the left was empty. Something swayed and bobbed at her back, playfully smacking her butt from time to time. As she stepped between two shrubs unto dry land, she reached back over her shoulder and felt folds of her cape tangled about a solid object. Her mind conjured up the image of a sword sheath and noted, in passing, that she felt no hilt.

Not good. Where were her other weapons? She scowled and stopped dead in her tracks, struck to immobility by a sudden thought. Her thoughts judged her to be a warrior but she didn't know for sure! Why not? Groaning, she reached out with her right hand toward a small tree trunk, steadying herself with its slender strength. Who was she? What had happened, and why was she here? Where was here?

She turned and leaned against the tree, feeling the empty sheath bite into her sore shoulder blades. Adjusting her position, she stared back toward the water. No other land seemed to be visible, but the creeping dusk might be obscuring something. She swore, wishing she had looked behind her earlier when she might have seen more than she did now. There was something odd about the horizon - a touch of iridescence perhaps. Maybe this place was bounded by reefs, harboring some kind of sea life that gave off natural light. There was no way to be sure, short of swimming out toward the dim blue-green phosphorescence -- not an activity she was about to try right now. In any case -- she studied the curve of water with increasing disappointment -- she saw neither land nor ship, not even signs of the remains of a ship, not so much as the hint of a splintered raft. Again, she wondered, how had she gotten here?

And who was she? A castaway, obviously. A warrior who had almost certainly been fighting recently. Her sore arms and shoulders ached in a way -- she hazarded -- felt familiar thanks to long experience. And the missing weapons whispered, like ghosts of foreboding, that she might have lost her most recent struggle.

At least, she felt nothing like the pain of a wound, just a great weariness. If she had lost a battle, could the losing have something to do with her lack of identity and her current situation? It didn't make sense on first thought, but then a more insidious idea chilled her. Sorcery. Sorcerers. She knew something about them - words that made no sense echoed in her thoughts, and she knew them to be the fragments of an incantation. Horror, rage and disgust filled her, leaving no doubt about how her former self felt about sorcerers.

The sun was setting, its pale orange blending and echoing off of the blue-green of that distant reef. The merged colors were magnificent, coaxing her to stay where she was and admire them, but caution dictated otherwise. She turned and resumed her trek inland. It was probably too late to make a campfire. On the other hand, the air was warm - and it might be best not to attract attention to herself. Who knew what lived on this island or who, besides herself, might be visiting it?

She gathered huge brittle finger-shaped leaves into a pile, circling a small patch of shrubs until she was too tired to continue.  Carrying and kicking them into a hidden niche of bare land amidst several shrubs, she sat down with a weary sigh. Prudence dictated leaving on her mail. She worked loose the damp leather strap caught in the heavy buckle, and cast the sword belt from her, then settled on her back, knees slightly bent, with her shoulder blades cushioned by the crunchy leaves.

Yawning, she reflected with a grin that, if she ever suffered from insomnia, it wasn't likely to be a problem tonight. A whispered crunch from beyond the irregular hedge of shrubs faded into the crackle of pulverizing leaves beneath her back. Her eyes already closed, she drifted into a dream before another thought could form.

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