Thursday, February 11, 2010

209 - We have to get out

Author's Note: This is actually Friday's post... I messed up and accidentally hit publish around 8:30 before I was done... so #209 is, indeed Friday the 12th's no matter what it says at the top.


The first thing that happened, of course, swimmer that I was, was I got a lung and a nose full of water and spent the first few moments clinging blindly to the log, choking. Ilesias said over the wood against my cheek, “You all right? Minis? You all right? Swim, Minis, swim.”

I managed to cough most of the water out of me and everyone was quiet. We didn’t know if the Mahid sentry could hear us from mid-river and everyone, even Ilesias knew we had to be quiet. It was silly. I had imagined us floating gently down the middle of the river javelin straight, Gannara and Ailadas up front and the log staying pointing downstream. The truth was we spun like a slow top and after the first two spins I didn’t know which bank was east or west. Downstream was north so once we got out we’d have some back-tracking to do. Right now it was all just a blur of water.

Kaita was completely calm, and because she was, Ilesias was too. I could see his face, dimly whenever I laid my cheek on the log and he did it too, clinging to two stumps on either side of his face, his nose a thumblength away. “Getting away from monsters,” he said in my ear.

The treasury box was airtight and floated about my knee-level bashing into my legs every time I tried to kick, the occasional flailing foot from Kyriala shoving it into me. I didn’t say anything. Rain sheeted down and it was water in my ears and nose and everywhere.
Gods, sorry, Ancestors… let the Mahid on the riverbank not hear us.

We had spun across and the end of the log actually hit rock on the other side of the river hard enough that everyone grunted or groaned and then clamped down on it, trying to keep our silence, even in the pouring rain, the ubiquitous plinking roar all around our heads as the rain became part of the river. Ailadas coughed, sputtered and coughed again.

In the darkness, in the rain, it was so hard to see, so hard to gauge how far we’d come.
How far have we come? How far down? There is a town near. I know because Joras was dispatched to it four days ago. And would likely be on his way back with supplies… but if we can bear it… we need to stay in the river down to the next town.

“Ailadas! How are you doing?” I managed to call, risking that we’ve held our silence long enough… if we are near the town… we are well past the Mahid guard. This river was quick, roaring along underneath a flat surface. It was deceptive. With Ailadas’s joints, he would be suffering most from the cold. And his lungs and his age.
Oh Selestialis…

His words floating back to me were already quivering from his body shaking, I could hear it even through the roar of the rain. "Ff-f-f-f-fine Ssspparkkkkkk kkk of the Ssssun's Rrrrray."

“Shen. Ailadas if you die, I shall be pissed!

"I ssshshshshall endddd...dddeavor n..n..n...ot to s.s.ssso annnnnnoy yyyyou!” He had to be well enough to be so proper, even with the shivering and stammering.

Ilesias slipped under once, then again, came up coughing, sputtering and crying. "I'm tired... I'm cold..." and Kaita put one hand under his head commanding him to float while she clung to the log with the her other hand.

“Ilesias, float! Float little brother!”

“Yyyyesssssss Mmmmimmminnnissss,” he said.

I could hear, her breathing was shaky as well. How long could we endure? The rain had eased up and I could see the lights of a town just whirling by us on the opposite side of the river, even as we were all spun slowly around so I had to turn my head. “Shen.”

It might as well have been on the Goddess’s Eye for all the good it did us.

“Spark of the Sun’s Ray?” Even in all of this Kyriala was clinging to titles? She was soooo proper!

“Just… not even Minis now… call me Minakas, all right? Are you all right? Do you need help?”

“No… M…… akas… Ilesias is s trouble… and perhaps Kaita.” Her voice was shaking with cold and I felt it in every limb, as if encased in armour in the snow. If we didn’t get to shore soon and get everyone dry we would all drown.

“We need to get to shore now! I don’t care if we make the next town. We’ll die of cold. Everyone…”

“Lights, Min…” Gannara called. The log turned downstream, straight and he declared with a note of true enthusiasm. “Our side!”

There was an ominous, echoing, omnipresent roar all around us I realized and had a sudden horrible image of rapids, or rocks, or a waterfall. The water had us in a clutching grip like a wrestler’s and I was suddenly very afraid of the river. “Everybody kick for shore! Point your face to where you want to go and flutter your feet,” Gannara instructed.

“What he said!” I backed him up. He was the best swimmer. “Don’t worry about kicking anyone we have to get to shore and dry! Come on, everyone kick!” The rain had faded to a steady, soaking patter but we could talk, there was a distant rumble of thunder marking the progress of the storm, further and further away from us, making the continuous rumble more frightening. Where we getting anywhere? The log was shaking and bucking but that could be from all our kicking and thrashing. A faint something in front of us and we were whipped past it.

Kyash! That was a dock…” Gannara’s voice sounded sure. “We just missed it! Everybody kick!” Even Ilesias tried to help. The wood under my cheek was sodden but still had enough sharp edges. I felt like I was struggling to push this stupid log up the Steel Gate stairs. Kick kick kick.

“Everybody breathe deep we need to fire everybody breathe and kick!” We weren’t moving anywhere, the river had us, clawing tight. It was all blackness, all wet and dark and cold and nothing was changing. My feet were thrashing hard and I could hardly feel the smack of the box against my legs.
We’ll never reach shore and go on forever. We’ve died and this is our Hayel, not enough air to suck into straining lungs, cold black water, kick forzak you, Minis Aan! Keep kicking! It was as though I were split in two, the whiny despairing voice and a raw bark full of anger and I poured my rage there into my kicking legs, my one arm flailing at the water as if I could pull us in by force of will.

“I’ve touched bottom!” Gannara’s voice cut through my thoughts, but I couldn’t let any relief slow me down yet, a scrape, a lurch, one of our bags or boxes hitting, then my own toes banging into something. We’d not worn our boots to swim, they were slung by the tied laces but my toes were so cold they didn’t hurt. With groans of thanksgiving everyone was standing up, thrashing their way out of the water, staggering up in the dark.

Kyriala half fell and, without thinking about it I, not much steadier, caught her elbow, stopped her from falling. “Thank you, Min... akas."

"Yer welcome, S'rina. Kaita, is Ilesias all right?” I said, whisps of hair worked free of my braid and plastered across my face.

“He’llll be all right if wwwwe can gggget him warm, Mmmmin… ah, Minakkkkassss…” she said, clutching him to her. We fought our way out of the grass and small trees and thistles all along the river bank and, with our sodden baggage found ourselves standing on a road. The torches of a tiny footbridge, over the river, flickered in the steady rain, a solid spear-cast distance away.

“Alll, right… we’re… we’re all here… good… we’ll find an inn.” My teeth were chattering too and behind us the log ripped loose of its grounding and floated away. “We have our story ss…sss..”

“We know, Minakas,” Gannara said. “You’re in such trouble for having tied the horses wrong and they ripped loose in the storm, isn’t that right, Scholar?”

“Ahem. Ahem. Yes, boy, so free, these manumitted slaves… harrumph. This way, youngsters… This way will surely lead us to an inn or hostelry…”

“I dd dd on’t care, Uncle,” Kyriala said, also taking on her new role. “Just somewhere warm to lie down.”

“Sorry, sor, s'rina…” I mumbled in my best Minakas
fessas accent. None of them had heard me use it before but everyone was so cold, so worn out, stumbling, that they didn’t react. “Heya, Gannara… kin ay get a hand w’ t’ box?” We staggered over to the bridge and found the path from it led uphill past a small locked-up temple, the torch outside its gate snuffed by the weather and the priest asleep.

Up the hill, all our breaths were coming hard now, water ran down the road over our feet toward the river and just at the top where the road turned, a sign swung in the wind. Its light was out as well but there was a candle in the window, a sign in a sleeping-hostel that there were still rooms available. The place was too small to have a proper inn, just rooms or cabins.

Ailadas pulled the bellrope himself. “Service! Come on! We are freezing to death in this cold! Service, man! Service!” The image of irate and discommoded Aitzas. The best way to sneak, would be to not be obviously sneaking.

It took a moment for the door to be answered, the fellow in the office obviously asleep in front of his stove. “Sor, sorry, sorry, sor…These un’s on’y gots a single… no stove, backin’ on t’kitchen…” The scruffy fessas porter looked to be a son of the family. They had a half-ten of single rooms built in a row along the road. “’t ‘lustrious gots horses, sor? These’ms gots no stable space, sor, fer lots.”

“No! My horses and mules are scattered to the Gods in this mis-begotten storm!” Ailadas was playing it so well. He stopped and coughed a half dozen times in a row rather than scattering them into his speech. “Isn’t that right, Minakas?”

“Sorry, sor… sorry, s’ this un’s fault it is!”

“And buying new ones in this benighted little town will come out of that one’s pay! Fellow, show us to the room and be quick. Send along some soup or kaf or both. I don’t care if that one has to re-light the kitchen fire!”

“Ay, sor,” the boy almost scuttled to show us to the room grabbing up a bag of bedding and towels for us. We all got wetter but the thought of finally being dry was enough to drive us all onward. The ironwood key opened the door with a clack. The boy lit a lamp with a fire-striker and handed the keyloop to Ailadas, bowing and scraping his way out.

Being out of the wind and the rain was almost a shock. We stood as wet and bedraggled as if we had been chewed upon by the storm. I was so tired and cold it was hard to think. Ailadas was moving only by will alone, I knew. “... there are no dry clothes,” Kyriala said, almost dreamily. Vague from cold? From tiredness?

Without any ceremony I started stripping Ilesias out of his wet things, all the way to the skin and wrapped him in one of the towels, throwing another over his little head. He was shaking again, which was a good sign because he’d stopped, before. “Min…”

“I’m pretending to be
fessas little brother… you can call me Min…”

“Yyyy yyy yyyessssss. I’m so cold, Min.” His little limbs were mottled red, white and purplish and I used my bare hands… oh… I’d forgotten… gloves for me as a
fessas – tomorrow’s problem. I unbound his hair and scrubbed his head until he was warm enough to complain. Kaita had somehow gotten Ky and herself out of wet boy-clothes and wrapped in sheets without offending anyone’s modesty. Gannara just stripped and dried off and started hanging every bit of clothing we had on the room’s hooks and pegs in the walls. Water streamed off them and out of the unpacked bags, trailing along the wooden floor.

We all looked like some odd, savage tribe in our sheet robes, with towels hiding all our hair. It was so good to be out of the water.
Have we done it? Will they figure it out? Will Joras and Matthas come trotting into town in the morning and sniff us out? I could only leave that in the hands of the Ten.

The hostelry boy brought both soup and kaf and Kaita got a full cup of the hot broth into Ilesias, while I skinned out of my now clammy clothes. The sheet and the blanket wrapped around me was Selestialis and the cup of black, unsweetened kaf after, glorious. All my bruises hurt. My legs were turning black and blue and I’d somehow pulled a muscle in my shoulder. My neck was on fire as well.

“Good enough, youngsters,” Ailadas said. “Serinas and Ilesias…” he smiled and nodded at the little boy completely worn out and sleeping across Kaita’s blanket-wrapped shoulder. “You take the bed and share out your warmth. The boys and I will pad the floor with these lovely dry blankets and we will be warm here.” We were all speaking to each other as if we were family, intimate, or as if it were Jitzmitthra, and no one seemed to notice.

“Min, you can quit running now. Lie down, I’ll blow out the light,” Gannara said. The makeshift bed of a thin pad of blankets on the floor, with Ailadas’s body at my back and Gannara’s in front of me, a dry towel rolled under my head for a pillow, was suddenly the best place on the earthsphere. It was warm. And I was too tired to hold my eyelids up in the dark. A nice dry dark. A warm dark. And away from Mahid.


  1. who knmow if they'll make it in the end, but hooray!!!

  2. I really needed a happy ending for the weekend. Thank you for all your hard work, beloved writer.

  3. Aw, thanks guys! Have a good weekend!

  4. Gulp! That was intense.


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