Categories > Original > Fantasy > Tradewinds 01 - "The Islands"


by shadesmaclean 0 reviews

mysterious search, taken at gunpoint

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG - Genres: Fantasy - Published: 2008-09-04 - Updated: 2008-09-04 - 1130 words - Complete

Max crept a little closer, still keeping the hanging branches between himself and the Cyexians. After watching Cleo and Lance vanish behind a curtain of branches, there had been a moment of doubt and he had felt an inexplicable urge to run after them. But he held his ground, determined to stay and help.

Though he had no idea how.

As Max watched, the party of Cyexians split up and began looking among the graves. When the leader’s voice came to him, loud and clear from his downwind position, he again had second thoughts about hanging around this creepy place.

“Check out those ones,” she ordered, in a cold, harsh tone that sounded to Max like the owner of that voice might do something violent and unpredictable at any moment, “see if there are any strange inscriptions.”

When Max got his first clear look at the woman who went with that voice, he felt a sinking feeling that seemed to go straight to his gut. To him it was like seeing something out of a legend. In this case, one of his father’s stories, a specter of his past.

She was of average height and sparely built, one whose strength was clearly built on a foundation of extremes. Her black hair was spiked in a style alien to Max, her face cold and determined; in her eyes, even at this distance, he could sense her calculating mind, as well as the disturbing restlessness that lurked behind it. She bore the scars of dozens of battles, and proudly let them show across her arms and unfemininely square shoulders.

Upon seeing her, Max knew he was in a lot more trouble than he had thought, for even though he had never seen her before Max knew it was Slash.

The most infamous of the clan leaders, hers was the most spoken name among the Elders when the subject turned to trouble. The fact that she had come here in person was a testament to her boldness. She was rumored to be mad even among the other clans, yet no one dared tell her that to her face; for all her scars, she remained undefeated save for one battle.

“What are you waiting for, fool?” she demanded. “Get going.”

“Yes, Your Highness,” said the woman Slash had spoken to, clearly uncomfortable, though whether at being in a graveyard or being in enemy territory— perhaps a little of both— was hard to tell.

Of all the clan leaders of recent memory, Slash made the most adamant claim to the old imperial bloodline. The woman got right to work examining the group of tombstones, for regardless of Slash’s ancestry, one thing was known about her blood: it ran ice cold.

Her callous ruthlessness and capriciousness were the stuff of drinking songs in the surrounding islands. Even the other ringleaders were a little afraid of her. For that matter, her own people were terrified of her; she seemed to have eyes in the back of her head, and though she had been challenged more times than anyone had a right to survive, more than any living leader, she was still standing, the head of the pack.

Which was more than one could say for those foolish enough to challenge her authority.

And Slash’s mood that evening seemed to be as swift and turbulent as the storm she could feel blowing in from the mysterious reaches of the Ocean. On one hand, she saw how the storm worked to her advantage; if there was any digging to be done on this expedition, the storm would help cover their tracks. On the other, she felt great unease about the secrecy of her visit. If compromised, it could set back her plans for years, or, even worse, tip off the Elders— worse still, their meddlesome errand-boy, Robert— to her agenda.

Though she dared not send out scouts when they were so few in number. Those Layoshan fools wanted nothing to do with her graveyards, but snooping around the rest of the island might just get someone’s attention. No point in wasting her advantage since her enemies’ attention was currently focused on those supply caches— small fish compared to what she sought. After all, the last time a Cyexian ever walked this ground was before she was even born.

So instead she carried on her brooding, feeling that something was almost certainly amiss.

As the others spread out and began examining graves, Slash was drawn to the same foreboding grave that so intrigued Cleo only minutes before. But unlike her, Slash knew exactly who was interred beneath the bank there, as only a few did, for she had heard of this site. More than a mere footnote in Cyexian (and Layoshan) history, here rested the very woman she was named after.

As she stood before this stark monument to her namesake, the clouds thundered in the distance, and as if on cue, it began to rain. The winds were changing, and she could smell blood. At long last, to finally be standing here…

“Slash!” called one of them, “I think I found something!”

“Could you possibly make any more noise?” she asked, turning away from her ancestor’s grave. Though the wind was picking up, and that last roll of thunder was even closer, she still wished to keep things quiet for now.

“Sorry,” came the audibly subdued reply.

“There’s a village only a short distance from here. Remember?” Slash turned and went to examine the grave. “Just keep your damn mouth shut for now. Once the storm really gets going, no one will be able to hear us anymore.”

By now she had reached the tombstone her lieutenant pointed out. And she gave the boss plenty of space, staying out of arm’s reach as Slash searched among the inscriptions for whatever it was she sought. Slash stood there for a long moment as the wind and rain slowly picked up, and the hanging branches rippled around the clearing as the waves were surely doing on the beach by now.

The storm was no longer just a rumbling menace hovering off the shore; trouble had landed on the island of Kinsasha once again, and its timing was terrible as ever.

“So, is it there?” asked one of the others, who, like her comrades, wished Slash would give them a better idea of what they were looking for. But of course knew better than to ask. Slash didn’t even trust her highest lieutenants with some secrets.

Slash was about to give that a cold negative when three figures emerged from the waving masses of branches nearby. One held at gunpoint.

“Your Highness!” called one of the two Cyexians, “Look what we found!”
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