Mi’Raah walked in bare feet at the Jystians. They had set him down and were stripping off his ornaments already. She outstretched an arm, silver beads of what she was made of pooled in the webs between her fingers. Fingernails gave wisps of white smoke, then wisps of blue, searing energy. The air between them snapped frozen, fell away, and then she flared fingers when she was nearer, and did it again. Now, metal lances froze and broke to crumbs, but nothing else. Mi’Raah gave a hard look over the breathing targets before herself, calculating a third time.
“How’s that? Is our native sun too hot, for you to take us down as well you witch!”
Hair stuck across her bare neck. She pushed palm again. This time, the climate of the country didn’t prevent her. Bloodied water reversing to spurt directly through pores of their skin and at the edges of their eyes, did the killing.
“No, it was the light, your bodies’ heat, together with the convection of that armor which put my numbers off. Now that lesson’s learned, I’ve not finished thinking through this other one! What’s the damned answer to that prose? I saw and mourned the proof of him being mortal, but then, simply because I believed different…” And the strange immortal woman knelt again to tap chin and resume thinking, as the battle quaked around her.
In these fateful times, another woman with shaved-bald head found that she could also pass through the tumult and not feel so self-conscious. Here in the Jystian Palace, people were more concerned with looting, putting down battles in the decorated hallways, or praying to a talking horse god, who, anyone faithful or no should have seen from any window, was busy at the moment chasing after pirates.
Koriandra stayed for a time, tapping fingertips along a window-ledge as she tried to understand a growing tangle of Jystian soldiers on the west brink of the city. The white suun flared off some gold chariot fleeing. Not far off, another pirate-fool had been stabbed through on three lances…
“Well, I hope they finally kill that lying, painted on, selfish half-twit Mi’Raah. That’s all I’m saying about it…”
The only trouble now for Koriandra, after having escaped upstairs from the dungeon riots, was finding one kindly person who might direct her as to where, in all the sea-bells, her mares could be!
She looked so ragged and gaunt that she couldn’t have appeared a threat to anyone. Though, Koriandra did have a shard of glass cramped in one of her fists. She found the stream of marble corridors and bright day-lit rooms disorienting, after being pent-up for so long. Where was the Grand Rampart? Then when she reached it–what other staircase could she use to access the stables, when the Grand Rampart was covered with fighting soldiers? At last, she thought she recognized some back service-stair, stumbled halfway down it, then raced across a desolate courtyard filled with statues of fattened horses (how cruel destiny was, to trick her eyes after everything!), toward the Royal Stable. Koriandra grabbed her shirt in a fright, much as she had on that day some weeks ago. No horse-sound, no stable hands mucking out or tossing bales, this time. Bad, bad, sign. And, the day was getting late. Someone, anyone should have been nearby, if the animals still lived. She ran shouting, from one opened stall to the next.
“Ina? Kanna?” Koriandra called for the animals. “Hallowed horse shit. Dung on my life! I’ve been wasting time here dreaming about you being mine again, looking for you two… instead I could have been… running out of here, or throwing myself out of a tower window… eating when I’m so damned hungry, clearly it’s all been nonsense, base instinct leading me–something else, anything other than run, hope, and stumble like this.” Nothing and no one came. Koriandra would have welcomed the enemy at this point. She leaned on a dirty wall, held herself, then yelled out again and sobbed wild.
What was the point? Believe, and then bad things happen. Suffer, and bad things keep happening anyways. It piles up. It hurts too much. Koriandra squeezed the glass shard in her other hand. She had come to the other far end of the barn, where it opened to the lonely fields against the sea-cliff. Nothing out there, either. Only green grass reflected against the crooked glass shard Koriandra squeezed deeper and deeper into supplicant palms.
“Great Hunter, have mercy. They sold my mares. I can’t even go home, when I betrayed my truest family, long ago. And this world is crumbling down. What will I do? I’ve nothing left, and it’s too painful to hope.”
A voice echoed down, from the rafters.
“Daughter of the Herd. Pledge yourself newly to me…”
Koriandra lashed around, but the stable was silent again. No movement, anywhere. Only the constant scent of so many lost animals.
“It is not done yet, filly. You are like the yearling just turned out, Koriandra. The hunter’s yearling. You are needed.”
“… Odentalis? Odeon! You bastard, come out here–”
“No, you are mistaken. How can you not know my voice, when I am your Fahrwandrian god?”
“But the Great Hunter doesn’t…” Koriandra crept round one corner and then another. Finally, she found a rope ladder hanging down from a hatch which opened to the hayloft overhead. Still swinging.
“Coriander… pledge yourself to me–urp!”
In pale slashes of eveninglight going across so many stacked haybales in the narrow crawl-space, Koriandra advised a grown man to take cupped hands down from either side of his mouth. “It’s Koriandra. And, the Great Hunter Spirit does not speak, considering… that he or she is just that–a ghost-feeling.”
“Well don’t stab me with that horrible, um, piece of glass. I’m completely unarmed.”
Koriandra was already crouched down, with the low ceiling. She drew her other knee in, to sit as he did. “I am going to guess, because you’re so good at mispronouncing my name and seem to also have your… girlfriend’s hair-do… that you must be that obsessive, bloodthirsty bastard who liked to send her direction on how best to torture more work and belief out of me, via gold message-bottle.”
“King Arudelle of the Siren, at your service. Yes, my soul is attached to yonder gold bottle.” he pointed.
“Ho no, I’m not falling for it. Don’t bother tricking me into turning my head again.”
“What are you doing here? There’s a war… your army is down there, fighting.”
“The gold bottle, that you don’t want to look at presently, was stashed up here by a dutiful servant of mine some nights ago. Mi’Raah came down here to find Odeon, I suspect. Good hiding place–well, I won’t complain when I could have been on a ship to the Lowery Isle, in one of those nasty horse-breeding-pens. In fact, I wonder at why Mi’Raah didn’t try for that? Oh, right, she couldn’t have guessed…”
“So that’s what happened.” Koriandra wiped sleeve over her brow. “It was you moving the bottle around, the whole time. It’s empty, stoppered up brain should have been my inkling, I guess.”
“No, that’s not exactly how it works. I was just hoping to make you cry about breeding-pens and the Lowery Isles, but that didn’t trick you either. Double damn.”
“Oh, I should gut you right now, King Arudelle, for being so simple! Come on, if you won’t say anything useful, then you’re going to buy me something useful. I’m taking you hostage.”
“I just died–let’s not do that again. Here’s another idea. How about I give you the mares, because I was laying here in a daze, listening, when they packed them off, so I know where they were taken… and you pledge loyalty to the Pirate King forever and ever and fast, so that I can start making plans to take over Fahrwandur.”
“WHAT?! What in the whole known-world makes you think I’d ever aid you in destroying my homeland like you did this one? First, the High Horse Priest sneaks and has me do it, leading the Jystian Phillies on a win, five-to-one over the Vestial Virgins… which was the beginning of the end let me tell you… but now some other immortal madman wants me to finish the job? By asking, right to my face, for help betraying my country, you think this offer’s bound to go better? Were you really paying any attention to Mi’Raah’s letters?”
“Bad time to clear this up, but it’s important to know I’m not immortal, really. Hold on–were those actual names, of the elite armies used to fight ceremonial wars in Fahrwandur?”
“That’s what happens when people squeeze gold out of a foreign kingdom. Cultural appropriation, what else? It’s all a game to them. Come on, we going back down there, where I can grab a pitchfork or something and threaten you better.”
Arudelle kept trying to explain to Koriandra about his death. She kept wanting him to ‘shut up his hail-call‘, whatever that meant. Koriandra snarled more and more hunter nonsense at him, as she prodded onward with a pitchfork. Arudelle was to walk backwards so that she could have a good aim at his innards and possess full control over his direction through the hay-strewn stables.
“No one else, not even Mi’Raah is coming out here. That’s the ruthless genius of it, I’m trying to tell you–Arrrr matey.”
“Now that just sounds like a lonesome hen. Make a left.”
“I’m going to trip and fall, damn you, woman! Listen to me. I was stabbed by lancers, but I also tied my soul to the gold bottle long ago. I told her to stash it in here on the night she got free from prison to find Odeon with… that Syramon-something. Of course, Mi’Raah has no idea why I wanted it up there–”
“Another left. If you’ve gotta fall at all, Arudelle, then just don’t come forwards onto the pitchfork, alright?”
“Fine. Well, it was the cause of–you just directed me to step in horse shit.”
“Heh. A right, this time.”
Arudelle took one final, patient breath as he paced backwards round another corner. “I told Mi’Raah’s sisters, before we even began the journey to Jyst, that if they did anything against us while we were away, that I would find out through that magical, indestructible bottle and have Mi’Raah killed by my entire army.”
“But you need her for your conquest. Not even Mi’Raah’s kin can be that stupid.”
“That’s my point… Mi’Raah’s sisters pledged whatever they would to my face, but then, of course, behind my back, they enchanted the bottle, essentially tying it down to a thread of Mi’Raah’s immortal soul. A bribed temple-servant told me–or was it a threatened or maimed temple-servant? I can’t recall… Anyways, they hoped it would be a way to ensure their eldest sister could never get lost in the sea of whatever’s after this life. Her spirit and her body could always be recalled, that way, as long as that bottle managed to survive. I’m sure they must have tied themselves to it as well, to prevent–”
“Another left. Though, I was tempted to let you fall into that water trough. You’re so full of it, Arudelle-the-whatever-you-are. How do you even know Mi’Raah’s sisters did all these things? You actually see them do it? Do you even understand immortal powers?”
“Seeing to believe isn’t necessary, when you let the ladies hug each other and then walk off into a private room for an hour and a half to say ‘goodbye.’ I know they did it, the bottle was the only thing going between them, the only way to know what was going on, so they used it. On my end, I went off with Mi’Raah on my own for about an hour before we got on the ship–”
“I do not need the details of this. Keep going straight.”
“…To get married. So then, my soul is tied to hers, and that of her sisters, all with the golden bottle. Wasn’t that smart of me? Well, there’s the downside of my original wife Euginnia being tangled in there as well, somewhere… but a sacrament like marriage is an outer expression of an inner spiritual transformation. Some witches make hoodoo dolls and stick pins in them–which do work, by the way. No matter how valuable that land is, no King really wants to have the Wild Tribesmen as subjects, ever. And, some other holy people put rings on the fingers of lovers to bind them in matrimony. Same thing.”
Koriandra only stared.
“You’d have to kill all of us, at once, and the bottle too, in order to murder any of us. Now, do you see? I’ve expanded my life by many proportions and spread it out across the sea itself! No one is going to get rid of Arudelle, unless he wants to be got rid of.”
“Or, unless Koriandra wants to get rid of him. Now that she understands it.”
Arudelle shut his mouth, which was nice, until he thought fast, “Well, I told you all this for a good reason, but you won’t listen to me. Besides, you’re never getting across the sea to my kingdom anyways.”
“Wanna bet? I survived a dungeon riot, escaped,s and came this far just for a pair of stupid, bow-legged horses. It’s not much to cross the sea, to murder several people I can’t stand–who RUINED MY LIFE FOR NO APPARENT REASON!”
Arudelle grabbed the pitchfork then, and pulled hard. He was able to yank it away from Koriandra with the jolt of weight changing between them so fast.
She darted away from him swiping at her, rolled through hay, then reached for a shovel.
“Dammit, Coriander, I’m asking you to marry me!”
Koriandra really screamed then. As loud as her throat and skull could stand to be rattled. “I don’t like men! I don’t like your damned sea religion! I don’t like crazy people with silver hair craving to destroy the world even if they are clever or charming. I tried it, but I didn’t like it, do you hear me? And for the last time, that is NOT even my name!”
“I promise, I won’t shave my head this time. In hindsight, this silver stuff did frighten Mi’Raah a great deal… more than I meant for it to.”
She jabbed, but Arudelle lashed up with both strong arms, to parry. “Well you can’t fight me forever. My pride is only matched by my strength, and my wit, though I may be mortal. Everything I touch becomes a weapon. That is why Mi’Raah nor her sisters were able to stop me. I am one of those rare men who comes along, every century–the dazzling hero–whom fate favors. Some will deny it to their last blasted day, but mortals can do the same things immortals can, and I’m the proof. I’ve got into the blindspots of two of them so far, and earned unthinkable victories on that theory. The Wild Tribes fell, Jyst has fallen. I want Fahrwandur too, and so that must be next. Koriandra, you can have a little faith in what I want to do and choose your life, or I can order my army to finish you off, once they get here. And, they are coming. An entire hysterical palace agrees.”
Koriandra took a very good swipe at Arudelle’s silver-covered head. She was no longer sure whether she was trying to kill him, or murder his speech. “If only I had my bow and my arrows! I’ve once shot a mewing rogue-bison’s tongue clear out of his petulant mouth during the mating season. Only after, did I take my shot at its heart.”
They two realized that more people were fighting nearby, and struggled to face it, even while dueling one another. It was not clear whether the war was coming to them way out here, or if looters were rivaling with one another. A shout for ‘loyal Jystians to part’, and then the rapport of a horse’s hooves galloping underneath the sacred livery arch confirmed it.
Oily black Odeon came running in, riderless. The look of that red armor was still something, but it was worse when they saw how King Baeltheon’s foot was caught in the stirrup. Odeon had somehow allowed the man himself to become a dragging dead corpse. The talking horse whinnied, “That dumb, fat liar. Get this dead-weight off of me! Every single Jystian King, I swear… descended from generations of capable cavalrymen, my equine ass! Where’s help? I called for a stablehand, I said!”
Some soldiers peeled off from fighting and tried to do some honor to King Baeltheon’s ruined body, or get water and feed for the King’s horse.
Arudelle stepped forward and stabbed one man and his water-bucket without another thought. Koriandra was forced to strike at the others as well, before they might make the decision that she was with Arudelle, or else a malcontent escaped from the dungeon. Well, she was honestly one of those, but no use taking chances. She whacked shovel and two men went down, with banged skulls. Arudelle finished off the last.
Odeon turned his back end, to face the far wall. “How? One of you was dead and the other should have been sentenced.” Odeon clapped yellow teeth together.
“Watch out, Odentalis, he’s going to ask you to marry him.” Koriandra scowled. Arudelle glinted her way.
The immortal stallion tossed head again, and another time, warning them not to come closer. “Want to see how good my impression of the late King is?” But when the talking horse tried it, the royal call for help was a garbled half-spoke whinnying. “And then, he’s also dead, isn’t he? So nobody would have believed it.”
“Arudelle’s the real voice-thrower here, anyways. I almost converted to a second strange horse-hunter-something-religion, I didn’t know what in three sea-bells it was…”
“I want the two of you to shut up and listen.” Arudelle defended his strange way of doing things. “The Kingdom of Jyst is all but taken. This is going to become a part of my empire. I only need a proper sword to seal the effort. Decide now, whether you are going to side with me and prove your loyalty when it’s needed, or if you just need help being thrown clear out of my way, with the chaff.”
Koriandra still wasn’t sure if whether liked the false High Horse Priest Odentalis, or if his horse-god form was better, or not. But she looked to Odeon in this moment, when Arudelle’s wild gaze was always so unsettling.
The large black horse lashed tail once and ceased all fighting back. “You are going to kill me, an immortal horse, with a pitchfork? Well that’s easy, go on and end me then.”
The fighting outside got louder. Jystian soldiers fled inside the stable and, into the open livery where they were, but Pirates came fast on their heels. Arudelle began shouting orders as soon as he saw his men, and the tide turned just as quickly for Odeon. Koriandra stopped laughing.
Arudelle was given the armor off someone else’s back, and dressed with sword and shield. “…that really it, Koriandra? After all our discussion, dumb gawking is your answer? You know, I almost got kill’t on the battle field, believing that I saw you, believing in your capacity to serve the next invasion. But that proposal was not worth the risk, two times now. Go on, men, take that one. Your first prize of the night. Tie up the horse, though, he’s needed for breeding.”
“Breeding? Is that what this was for? Mi’Raah said but I thought she was being simple and self-righteous as usual–Is that really all!”
Odeon’s fool remarks were cut off when Koriandra dropped her shovel and raised naked wrist for them to see. She pressed the shard of broken glass to it. “I swear I will!” She screamed. “I’ve no reason not to. Do you think that’s how I want to end, Arudelle, with nasty pirate-men clambering all over me? After what I already did with Prince Bonnis, after everything, I’d hate it.” her voice broke. “I’m not going to die like some swine, the way I lived.”
Odeon warned, “Rider Koriandra, you are a soldier until the last. Fight with me. Do not lose your nerve.”
“It’s not my nerve that I’ve lost. A mortal person can only take so much. My shoulders, this heart, my very soul is overburdened! Arudelle, if I’m just a stupid woman to you in the end, warm chattel not worth a thing, then at least let me run from here. I beg you, let me live as the slime on sea-rock. I wouldn’t hurt a soul, I promise. I just want peace.”
“Yet, you wouldn’t join me and live according to my cause. So, you aren’t so desperate, and, no, we don’t know what you’re capable of.”
“You’re like the devil himself. Hearing your voice and seeing you work is like burning alive! Again, I beg you to see your own arrogance. Who would want that?”
Arudelle urged, and his men advanced anyways. Strategically, it made no difference to him. Koriandra flared open fingers of that one desperate, shaking hand, then sliced down through her own wrist.
She eased into the hay, watching it bleed. “If she cannot be saved, unless she is first redeemed, and belief may be belief, but suffering will always be suffering, if mortals are equal to immortals, in all the evil and good they choose to do…” slipping smile, “Then what’s the point of wondering? When all I’ve ever done, is to believe, there is nothing more I can do.”
Mi’Raah was announced over the dying woman’s speech. The pirates saluted, or didn’t know to, and parted ranks. Mi’Raah had drips of water all over her robes and flecks of white ice in her hair. A sheet of it slipped down over her gold breastplate, more evidence of how she’d survived the battle.
“Kori! What have you done?”
Arudelle sniped, “I happen to be alive here, as well.”
Koriandra said, “There’s no point, to life.”
“This had better not be about those horses, again!”
“My horses are gone, because Arudelle’s always been a liar. Nor do I want to see you,” she looked away. “You and Odentalis, broke everything… and then some people really believed… Arudelle would be a good king. Pfft!” Mi’Raah sat beside Koriandra, patted her cheek. “…Mrm?”
“Listen to me, Koriandra. I realized something today. I can choose my life. No, I can choose to live. I can believe in order that the suffering be made less. When there is nothing but fear around me, then what will I do? Fear to even love? If life is fear… then I should love anyways. I should rejoice in the face of destruction. I should heal, without being told. I should rise, whether events desire for me to, or not.”
She took frightened breath and went on, “Because, most often, they will not. But, if I desire, if I believe, then I will have nothing to do with that. Small or strong, immortal or brief, I can choose to be free. I can free myself. By caring about my life. Whether or not life cares about me, that is not good enough to worry about.”
“I will live, and will others to live with me. Sweet bald thing, I’ve learned… if mortals are equal to immortals, in all the evil and good they choose to do… Then I have the power to redeem myself, and the choice to save others, too. Through my love. Precisely, because I choose to believe.”
Koriandra shut her eyes. “That’s pretty. Maybe.”
“If I believe, then there’s a better chance I’ll work, to set things right. One has to see first, one has to want first, before one can make a good reach. Please, consider it. Forcing someone to exist when they don’t want to, and for the reasons they don’t want to… I don’t know which is worse. But if you care at all, if you want to try Koriandra, then please tell me so, right now! I’ve killed enough. I want you to live, but I won’t have you dead on your feet, either. I won’t do that to you, anymore. Maybe the others haven’t learned their lessons but–argh, I’m so vain, even now. Dammit, let me help you when I’ve finally figured it all out. I was the cause of this, for ever choosing to aid or marry that lunatic. And now it’s my mess to clean up. Oh, by all that is, Kori, forgive me…” Mi’Raah cried and held her.
Odeon lowered his long neck. Arudelle said nothing. He even turned his back. “I want soldiers posted in the east and western wings of the castle. As for the throne room…”
A breeze came, the sun set. Koriandra squeezed Mi’Raah’s hand. “…Are you sure… bottle or no… you can’t kill him?”
“Not until he gets old, dear. Then, life kills him.”
Mi’Raah’s Virtue sailed east, this time. The coast of Fahrwandur was longer than that of Jyst, but as an island, the sun was still able to touch either end of it. Where the light kissed, the crests of mountains seemed to catch fire, or the tree-canopy glowed warm, like a jewel.
One sailor up near the prow stood in elegant profile. The pirates were all dressed better these days, for having plundered the most monstrous kingdom in the Known Seas. There was no longer such thing as a Jystian pirate, who could sail west and plunder a foreign coastline so well, that he needn’t bother hold any fear for his proper king, or the fury of the robbed princes being held hostage. Jystian piracy had been dismantled and put back together again. Their home was bitten back, and hard, by the most savage of land-loving dogs there ever was.
The Sirenian drummer, decorated like any prince, began his music.
Arudelle came from the cabin, having kicked the door open. The pirate-crew roared savage. He bowed to them at the waist, then gestured for the captives to emerge.
Mi’Raah marched out, sneered, and twisted, to show how her wrists were bound behind her back. Same silver robe. Same silver hair–it had to be. But, Arudelle’s dye-job never was necessary. He was back to muddy, fly-away tresses, as agreed. Odeon came last, wearing a long, soiled blanket swathed about his shoulders. He preferred to travel as a person, not a horse. Though, it meant he was pudgy and worse than irritating again, without the sharp warhorse countenance to balance it.
“I wish you wouldn’t use a stable blanket–”
“I’m the guest of honor, the breeder, I get to eat and wear whatever I please, Arudelle. This happens to be my favorite thing in the entire world besides molichaff and females, by the way. Anyways, don’t we all have a higher purpose today?”
Arudelle pointed to the plank and drew his sword. Mi’Raah tossed head, cussed him, the crowd whistled and jeered until she knelt at its edge.
“I have been counseled, along the long journey, mateys, that there is a far better way to abuse the vast rabble of mortality–excuse me, ‘improve’ is the word I’m looking for. Long ago, some fine folks, like yourselves, decided to burn and pillage the land I was due to inherit. And then, after some drunken diversion–I will admit that now…” and he did so, to raucous laughter, “I eventually pulled myself together and began to fight, to get the Siren back. Others may disagree, but I still believe that fighting is a part of life. Why? Because life is hard. Yes, we are going to suffer. The dog is going to bite us, and especially if it is a Jystian dog, or a Trystian dog and its damned sunken navy,” more cheering, “and now a Fahrwandrian dog–did I say that right? Haha! I’m not a nice man, and I’m not a fair man, and I’m not even promising you that I’m a sane man! But, what I do offer you, loyal pirates, thieves, devils, you man-whores and friends of mine, is that this man, right here, is certainly a good damned weapon if mortals ever bore themselves one and I intend to prevent what happened in my Siren from happening anywhere else, ever again. Perhaps it is a selfish effort, this conquest. But, I won’t have Jyst rising back up while I’m out here, nor Tryst. So all the Known Seas are going to have to change their ways. If they can’t learn to pay homage and devote themselves to a new order, where talking horse gods and great words, not deeds, get their run of the place, well then, it’s time to start over again.” he bowed his head. “And so, this time, I force Mi’Raah off the plank in memory of a good… what do you call her? She never really helped us you know.”
Odeon, as a man, was more irate than ever. “Call her, Rider Koriandra. That’ll do just fine… you half-shod, half-wit yearling.”
“This run, will be in honor of our Rider Koriandra, and the molichaff which Odeon will not be eating today. If she had not schemed as well as she did, then we would not be here, in the correct spirit of restitution.”
The drumroll began again. Seagulls cried above. Arudelle might have prayed, for the first time in his life.
Until the ship’s greatest weapon was escorted into their midst and it became clear that some people would never have to feel beholden to deities in this life, if they didn’t like. Sheer belief could do more than that. Its sentiment gifted the willpower to do great good.
Koriandra smiled at the guards flanking her, and reached arms into the furred coat they offered. “The corrupt chief has agreed to see me. That is when I am going to stab him. Here, the gold bottle confirms it.”
Arudelle took the yellow message bottle and read for himself. “This is better than we expected.”
Koriandra nodded. A woven leather headdress prevented the sun’s oily reflection off her clear brow now. “He’s a snake. A snake who hoped I’d sleep with a Prince of another kingdom wanting a coup, so that if it failed, then I could be trusted to lose my temper and kill Bonnis, quiet even my country’s involvement. But my chief, he schemed wrong. I go in peace, but then I leave his tent in the shreds he deserves for selling so many of us out.”
“Don’t forget to reclaim the ancestral battlegrounds, dear.” Mi’Raah called, from where she still knelt at the edge of the walking-plank.
“You’re so good, I might love you too, you know, Kori. My offer still stands.”
Koriandra slapped Arudelle, in short order.
A breath of panic. The whole ship was doing it. Arudelle snarled. “Interesting. My pride was hurt… but it wasn’t broken… when you hit like a girl.”
The jolly crew reacted to the opening. Koriandra buckled and laughed unexpectedly. “That’s good enough for now, I think. Alright, let’s go.” Her escort walked over near to Mi’Raah, where they were lowering a small boat into the sea.
“Arudelle? Mightn’t I ask…”
Mi’Raah ignored him, when she was already so flushed with embarrassment. “When she gets to arrive in a boat, why do I have to walk the plank, still? It makes no sense.”
“Well, you aren’t going to be a High Priestess this time. Koriandra is a prophet, who is going to summon you from conjured flame. There are the spark-rocks with her things.”
“People aren’t going to fall for the same trick twice, Arudelle.”
“We will govern them with sea-ritual and tithing, we’re not going to call it worship. You still have miracles to work, don’t worry.”
“It sounds like religion to me.” Koriandra shrugged, “But it’s better than rape and pillage all up and down the coast.”
Pot-bellied Odeon had got a carrot from somewhere and was munching it. With the rank ragged blanket he did manage to look animal after all. “Better? Best would be staying home and not bothering other people about what they believe or don’t. There’s so much more to life.”
Arudelle snatched the carrot away. “Snacks? Not for my horse–you have a proscribed diet, thank you very much.”
The drumroll raised, Mi’Raah’s death-look at Arudelle grew, Koriandra leaned from her row-boat and whispered, “As soon as we find a way to break the bottle… don’t worry.”
“Trust me, I’m on pins and needles and the edge of a very plank, waiting for the day. I’m glad you decided to join us, Kori. Arudelle is not easily beat. The worst of us have no choice but to use him back. I won’t give him the pleasure but I’m truly horrified that he was so motivated to keep torturing me, Arudelle lived through even a thrice-stabbing–”
“Where I’m from, we call that a creeper.”
“…Mortals are equal to immortals, indeed! I’ll be paying for my sins against so many people I crossed while letting that one run wild over my life. Poor Syramon. Poor world. If only I had known the way of things, in time…”
The two women were getting far away now. One near the blue waves, the other kneeling on a wooden plank, with back arched against a clear sky.
“But once he’s elder and done so much damage to the world, won’t it be too late for you to repent?” Koriandra called. Those settling the boat onto the water for her stopped and stared.
“You didn’t believe his speech? I really think the Pirate King’s heart has changed. I’ll be able to keep a better eye on Arudelle and this world he says he wants to conquer–but I believe he wants it tamed, for higher reasons than before.”
“Well mortal life is damned if it truly hasn’t, or you can’t.”
Mi’Raah braced herself against the next drumroll. Her thoughts were hurtling to one last place. “Sometimes, even if in an impossible situation, like having ever caught that terrible fiend’s eye, the most impactful thing a person can do, I believe, is to live on… And, Arudelle–when I know you are listening, I swear I will outlive you!”
Final timber-pangs, and release!
Mi’Raah screamed and fell into the clamoring waves. Koriandra’s boat rowed gently to shore. Arudelle’s temper was relieved by the sea as his silver-headed woman-slave began to work and the water calmed.
“Fizzle, fizzle, pill. Foam glass water again, when I’m so glad to drink. Truly, through you, my soul feels less ill.”
Odeon was the only one to make a pitiful clapping at his master’s poetry. But, somehow, it was kind enough.
This two-month long novella about a silly silver-headed woman and her spiritual crises is derived from one of my unpublished novel manuscripts. The larger work, of which (as spectacular as she is) Mi’Raah is not a lead, includes many wonderfully incensing characters: several more odd talking creatures, a cataclysmic love triangle spanning The Seas, Arudelle’s many reincarnated descendants and a whole other continent of dark-skinned characters with more outrageous problems than even dealing with the Black Armada.
When it is completed, “Wilshe” will be a cross-cultural fantasy-style soap opera with no point except to amuse and frustrate so many against an atypical colonization scenario. That said, profuse thanks for hanging in there and reading. I will definitely let you know once I finish the full novel.
1, Mi’raah’s Virtue :: 2, The Dancing Beaches :: 3, On His High Horse :: 4, Off His High Horse :: 5, Bottled Message :: 6, Horse Huntress :: 7, Rider Koriandra :: 8, Oh No He Di’int :: 9, Talking Horses :: 10, That Damned Bottle Again :: 11, Believing is Seeing :: 12, A Choice Between Two Lovers :: 13, Last Vortextual Process :: 14, End of the Prose