Adrift


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    What the author really intended to write for Rift

    I dipped my paddle into the deep river and pulled, watching the water swirl as it rushed to fill in the rift left in the paddle’s wake. I felt at peace out here surrounded by my birthright. If only I could submerge myself in the cool liquid, escape from the beating heat of the autumn sun.

    “Keep staring like that and you’ll fall in,” my cousin joked. I glanced back at Dunehein long enough to roll my eyes at him before turning back to my paddle.

    Dunehein had tagged along on the trip to Ingdanrad on our quest for answers. Answers on how to stop Selax from sundering the bridge between our world and the void. Answers on how to prevent my dying tribe from being wiped out by the Corvittai.

    Having lived in a forest my whole life, nothing prepared me for what I saw when I stepped inside that underground city. Built by earth-shapers, the whole mountain had been hallowed out for homes, workshops, mushroom fields, and all manner of structures that I wasn’t even sure Caladheå was large enough to hold. But I don’t think you’d be interested in hearing about any of that, so I won’t elaborate.

    “Rin, you keep staring at your paddle like that and we’re going to have to drag you out of the river!”

    I looked up to see Ilani scowling at me as her canoe passed alongside mine. Unable to think of a politically correct response, I settled for sticking my tongue out at her.

    “I don’t even know why we brought you along,” she muttered, paddling harder to put me out of sight.

    Behind her, Esiad struggled to keep his giggling quiet from his sister. Ilani may have been my age, but I got along far better with Esiad. He too was an antayul, a waterbender like me. He was also kind of cute, for an Iyo boy.

    On the other side of the canoe I caught a glimpse of a dark shape beneath the surface. An orca, gliding up alongside my boat.

    “Don’t you dare, Mekeru!” I warned her. “I am not going to fall in.”

    She snorted, spraying water out of her blowhole. Technically Woetotem had put her in charge of our expedition, but I was in no mood for another lecture from this old crone.

    “Boats, dead ahead!” Ilani’s voice called out, cold and serious.

    I looked up to see dark shapes cresting the bend ahead. The river here ran straight for a long stretch, so they were still several minutes away. But boats were bad news.

    “It’s the Corvittai,” I said, tightening my grip on the paddle.

    “You don’t know that yet,” Dunehein replied.

    “It has to be! We don’t have any other known antagonists,” I pointed out.

    Mereku dipped under the surface, then rose up out of the water, flying over the boat. She transformed midair, orca form resolving itself into that of an old woman. Even though her skin was wrinkled from age, the dolphin tattoo was still visible on her left arm.

    “We must seek shelter immediately,” she said, dripping water all over my canoe and soaking my bedroll.

    “Where?” I asked.

    “We are almost to Rutnaast. It is the last place they’ll expect to find us.” She pointed to a few buildings on a small bay on the side of the river.

    “We are going to seek cover there?” I asked. All around Rutnaast was flat ground with sparse vegetation. There would be no cover if we had to leave the buildings; the nearest trees were over three hundred paces away.

    “Like I said, it’s the last place they’ll expect to find us.” She glared at me, making it clear she didn’t like me questioning her orders.

    “I think…they’ve already found us,” Esiad gasped. We all looked up to see him tumble into the water, an arrow sticking out of his chest. Red liquid began muddying the clear river water.

    “Esiad!” Ilani screamed, dropping her paddle and diving into the river after him.

    “Keep watch over the girls,” Mereku told Dunehein. “The information we received must make it to Toel Ginu or else we are all doomed.”

    “You’re leaving us?” I asked incredulously.

    “I can get there the fastest,” she said simply. Without waiting for a reply, she dove into the river, her form shimmering and transforming before she even hit the water. The orca disappeared from sight, crossing under our canoe before launching herself into the air.

    “I didn’t know orcas could fly,” I said, staring at her with my mouth open. Her sleek black form was sailing over the city, heading towards the trees.

    “I didn’t either,” Dunehein said, putting his hand on my shoulder.

    Mereku made it to the tree line before she ran out of momentum. I watched her form plummet to the ground, out of sight. Even at this distance, we could hear the boom as she crashed.

    “What do we do now?” I asked, a nervous chill racing through my body.

    “Kat, you must carry the message to Toel Ginu.”

    “What?” I spun around to face him.

    He looked at me sternly. “No time to argue. Your wolf form is faster than Ilani’s porcupine. You must tell Fendul what we learned or all of this was for nothing!”

    “But what about you?”

    “I’ll look after her.” He nodded at Ilani, cradling her brother’s body and sobbing while they floated down the river.

    “I can’t do this!” I protested.

    “You must!” Dunehein released his grip on me. “Tell my wife…” He choked up for a moment, struggling to find the words. “Tell my wife I won’t be taking the trash out tonight.”

    “I’m coming back for you!” I promised. “Don’t you dare die on me!”

    The boats ahead were closer now, enough to make out the details. Two galleons and a frigate, all of them flying the trademark banners of the Corvittai: a white kinaru in a red circle crossed by a thick red line.

    “I mean it Dunehein,” I said, standing while I gathered my wet gear. “No dying.”

    “Just go already!” he shooed me.

    I secured my pack on my shoulder. Under Dunehein’s guidance, the canoe had almost reached the shore. A short jump that I could easily clear in wolf form.

    Wiping the tears away from my eyes, I faced the field ahead of me. I took a deep breath to steady myself and find the beast lying dormant within.

    “I’ll be back later,” I said as I closed my eyes and jumped.


    The makeshift palisade surrounding a familiar camp rose into view. Ignoring the pain thrumming in my side, I stumbled forward. Past the sentries that gawked and stared. Past the old ladies that looked up from their knitting. Past the children who ran around in circles and squealed.

    My gaze was focused on one man. He was standing in conversation with Tokoda, the two of them so engrossed in their argument that neither noticed me until I placed a bloody hand on his shoulder.

    When he turned, his jaw dropped open in shock. “Spirits, what happened?”

    My hand slid down his shirt leaving a red smear as my vision blurred. “Message for you sire,” I said, panting as I collapsed to my knees. The world around me spun and I blacked out.


    When I came to, I was lying in a dimly lit cabin. A flickering lantern at my side illuminated a ceiling I had seen many nights before. I was back home.

    I heard movement at my side and turned to see Nili dip a cloth into a bowl of water.

    “Sorry if I woke you,” she said, placing the cool cloth on my forehead.

    “I didn’t know you were back.” I said, adjusting the cloth so it wasn’t dripping into my eyes. Nili never had to care for the sick like I did, but I appreciated the gesture nonetheless.

    “Tiernan encouraged me to come visit. Said it’s important that I don’t lose touch with my friends.”

    Something felt off. The Nili I remember was always upbeat and bursting with energy. This Nili couldn’t even look me in the eye.

    “Nili, what’s wrong?” I asked her. She jerked in surprise and turned away. “Spirits, did he hurt you?”

    “What? No!” I caught a glimpse of a tear on her cheek. “My life is fine. It’s about you, Kat.”

    I reached down to feel my injured stomach, wondering if my wound was worse than I thought. Everything felt like it was in place. It wasn’t even sticky anymore.

    “I don’t understand,” I said, feeling more confused than before.

    “Didn’t he tell you?”

    “Did something happen to Fendul?” My heart sank.

    “No.” She shook her head. “Well, sort of. I thought you knew?”

    “Nili,” I said taking a deep breath and clenching my fists. “I’m going to count to three…”

    She blurted it all out at once. “The Iyo are forcing Fendul to reconsider his marriage.”

    “I swear I’m…wait, what?”

    “Since the Rin have been living off Iyo land, the Iyo elders think it’s only fair that they get something in return.”

    “But Fendul is our Okorebai. He’s banned by law from marrying someone from another jouyen!”

    “Exact;y, Kat!” Nili paused, clasping her fingers together. “The Iyo want someone to marry you!

    “Me?” My head was swimming, but I couldn’t tell if it was from the medication or from all the questions each answer seemed to bring. “Who would want to marry me?”

    “Airedain,” Nili sniffled.

    “WHAT?” I sat up so fast I didn’t realize what was happening until pain exploded in my side. It took Nili three tries before she could lower me back down.

    “There is no way I will marry that creep!” I panted. Something sticky was oozing out of my midsection. I wiped my hand in disgust on the blanket. “I’d rather eat two bushels of dogbane.”

    “Kat, let’s talk this over in the morning. You need rest.”

    “I’ve been resting all day!”

    “Kat.” Nili’s voice was stern. “Don’t make me fetch my mom.”

    “I…” My chest was still heaving with rage, but I forced myself to calm down with a series of long breaths. I wasn’t entirely sure I could have walked across the camp in my current condition anyway.

    “Fine,” I spat out. “But I’m going to visit the Iyo first thing in the morning.”


    True to my word, I was hauling myself out of bed as soon as sunlight began filtering through the logs in the wall. Stepping carefully so as not to disturb Nili, I managed to hobble out the door and down the stairs.

    “This is way too early for anyone sane,” I muttered, rubbing my eyes, letting them adjust to the light.

    Most of the adults were already awake, setting about the day’s chores. A cookfire was grilling salmon. A group of men were carving arrows. Some of the elder children had been conscripted into hauling buckets of water from the river. Fortunately, I didn’t spy my two charges among them, but then again, they were always late sleepers.

    The sentries at the gate watched silently as I exited out of the Rin camp. Sometimes I wondered if they even knew how to speak. For all I knew, they were just faceless fixtures. I brushed thoughts about them aside and began the long hike to Toel Ginu.

    The Iyo camp was also alive, but the atmosphere was completely different. When I passed Rin, I saw ragged faces, weary movements, and worried children. Here, everyone was relaxed and calm, as if today was just another ordinary day.

    My heart lightened when I saw Dunehein carrying a large burlap sack out of the shrine. He saw me and waved, putting down the sack.

    “You made it okay!” I said, collapsing into his hug.

    “Your boy flew out with a group of volunteers and rescued us,” he said. “We got back late last night. I wanted to drop by, but I’m told you were out of it for a while.” His expression turned solemn. “You okay?”

    “I’m just a little sore,” I said, brushing my hand across my stomach. “What do you mean ‘out of it for a while’?”

    “I hear you’ve been unconscious for three days. Did the Corvittai get you too?”

    I scrunched my face up. “No, just a goat.” My fault for sleeping in an occupied field.

    “That was a baaad lapse of judgment, little cousin.”

    “Shut up,” I said, punching him on the arm. “What about the others?”

    “The good news is the three of us are all back. Mereku injured her arm pretty badly in the fall, but will live. Ilani is physically unharmed…but she’s preparing her brother’s body for the ceremony.”

    “At least there are no more deaths on my hands.” I sighed in relief. “What’s the bad news?”

    “Rikuja made me take out the trash.” Dunehein gestured to the burlap sack. “So I need to get back to it. Where are you headed?”

    “Tokoda.”

    “Ah.” He didn’t say more, but from the expression on his face, I knew.

    “I’ll see you around, D,” I told him.

    The path up to the Iyo Okorebai was obnoxiously strenuous for people with gut wounds. I had to pause on her porch to catch my breath and wipe the sweat off my face. A quick check revealed my wound had stayed shut. I’ll take the small victories where I can find them.

    I took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

    Silence.

    I knocked again. I couldn’t hear anything inside, but the blood was pounding in my ears, distracting me. I reached up to knock a third time when suddenly the door opened.

    An old Iyo woman peeked out at me. “I heard you the first time,” Tokoda said.

    “Sorry, I just thought–“

    “I know why you’re here.” The door creaked loudly as she pulled it open. “Come on in.” She gestured towards a round table set up in the main room. One of the chairs was already occupied by another old woman I knew. Akiga glanced up from her steaming cup of tea and scowled.

    “Come on. I don’t need to be cooling off the neighborhood!” Tokoda snapped.

    I hobbled my way inside and collapsed into the closest chair. Tokoda sat to my left, the window behind her covering her face in shadow. I glanced across at Akiga, still glaring at me from behind her cup. A heavy silence descended upon the table until I realized they were waiting for me to speak.

    “So uh, I heard I’ve been a topic of discussion recently,” I said.

    Tokoda kneaded her fingers together and leaned forward. “As you know, the Iyo have graciously taken the Rin under our flipper.”

    “Yes.” I swallowed.

    “We have sheltered the Rin, provided them special access to our hunting grounds and our fisheries. We have even fought–” she paused, staring directly at me, “–and died for the Rin.”

    “I know.”

    “Then child,” Akiga interrupted, her screeching voice reminding me of a strangled seagull. “Do you not think it is time for the Rin to do something for the Iyo?”

    “But why Airedain?” I demanded. Only after I noticed both of them glaring at me sternly did I realize my fists were on the table. I quickly slid my hands back into my lap and moved my chair to avoid the spilled tea dripping onto the floor.

    “It would mean a great deal to my people if you would take Airedain,” Tokoda said.

    “I don’t understand.”

    “If Airedain marries into the Rin, that frees up his Iyo fiancée to take someone else,” Akiga explained. “Besides, it adds a strong, young man to the dwindling Rin numbers, and the Aeldu know we need all the help we can get.”

    “Who’s his fiancée?” I asked, frowning.

    “Ilani,” Tokoda replied. “We arranged their union for them when they were still young, well before we knew what kind of character Airedain would turn out to be. But the poor girl is understandably distraught over recent events. I fear adding on this burden of a husband would be too much for her to bear.”

    “If they don’t get along, why can’t you just break off their union?”

    “A promise made in front of the spirits cannot be so easily undone. The only way out is for someone to take her place.”

    “She means you,” Akiga helpfully clarified.

    “But–“

    “I’m not asking you to marry Airedain,” Tokoda interrupted.

    “Wait, you’re not?”

    “No. I am merely asking you to give him a chance.” Tokoda held up a wrinkled hand, her thumb and pinky pressed together. “Three dates is all your Okorebai has agreed to. For now.”

    “So, three dates and then what? I’m free to reject him?”

    “If you still so desire.” Tokoda steepled her fingers in front of her chin. “Though do be aware that such a decision might lead to…consequences for the special arrangement between our tribes. Now, was there anything else?”

    I stood up and hobbled my way back to the door. Out of the corner of my eye I caught Akiga grinning and flashing three fingers at me. I flashed her a two-hand salute. That wiped the grin off her face.

    Angry thoughts whirled around my head as I stumbled back through the Iyo encampment. How could Fendul agree to such a thing? Hadn’t he gone out of his way to join us together?

    I was also frustrated at myself. After all, I was the one to volunteer to travel to Ingdanrad just a day after he inked my arm. And since he had to stay behind, that meant we hadn’t even gotten any time to ourselves. What’s the point of being married if you don’t get to enjoy it?

    Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I caught sight of a spiky haircut bobbing towards me.

    “Ai, Rin girl!” Airedain called out.

    “Oh great,” I muttered.

    “What do you call something with two legs, long hair, and a funny looking limp?”

    I stopped and turned, putting my hands on my hips. “I don’t know, what?”

    “Beautiful,” he said, flashing his teeth in a wide grin. It might’ve worked if I hadn’t met him before.

    “Oh yeah? Well, what do you call something with spiky hair, whiskey breath, and the ability to turn into a five-legged echinoderm?”

    He was still grinning. “What?”

    “A dumbass,” I said, turning back to the exit.

    “Hey, don’t be like that,” he said, catching my arm.

    “Let me go!” I shrieked.

    He stepped back, his smile gone. “Someone is a little sore.”

    I stared at him in disbelief. “What is up with you? The last time we met you tried to kill me, and now you waltz in expecting me to swoon into your arms. As if I’m to believe this whole blackmail scheme wasn’t your doing?”

    “Ah, you heard about that,” he said. He stepped closer and lowered his voice. “It’s true, you know.”

    “What? What’s your game, Airedain?”

    He started to say something, then changed his mind and leaned back. “Maybe I just want the chance to show you what kind of character I really am.”

    “It’s not going to work,” I said, turning away.

    “I get three chances anyway.” His stupid grin was back. “Expect to see you tomorrow bright and early, at the fountain square in Caladheå.”

    “We’ll see about that,” I muttered. I tried not to glance back, I really did, but I knew his eyes were following me the whole way back to the Rin camp.


    “Ouch!” I pulled my hand back and sucked on my thumb. I had been fiddling with one of the oil lamps, trying to get the flame burning right, when my finger had slipped and poked something sharp.

    “Need some water?”

    “Hanaku can almost make the waves come out of the bucket now!”

    I glanced over at the two small faces peering at me. The girls were like the crescent and shadow of the moon. Misiya had hair the same color has her pale blue skin, while Hanaku had a darker complexion and a long black braid over her shoulder to match. Barely teenagers, they were old enough to begin training to become antayul. And as one of the few resident experts left in the Rin, I had been tasked with teaching them. Not that I’d had a lot of time for that lately.

    “Show me,” I said.

    Misiya pushed the mostly-full barrel closer. Floating on the surface of the water was a tiny canoe the kids had carved to help them gauge the strength of their waves. I had told them when they were able to capsize the canoe, I would begin their real training.

    Hanaku knelt down next to the edge of the barrel. The orphan wanted to be a drummer once, giving up her passion so her friend would have company. Antayul rarely had time for other activities.

    She closed her eyes and breathed deeply several times. Misiya began a humming noise the elders frequently used when trying to summon spirits. I bopped her on the head and she scooted away in a fit of giggles before continuing her humming.

    Hanaku reached out, her arms level above the barrel. The two of them were humming now in unison, Hanaku’s older voice providing the alto of their duet. Little ripples appeared on the surface of the water, rocking the canoe back and forth. Hanaku turned her palms forward, the chant turning into something more akin to a battle cry as the ripples intensified and the barrel began to shake. Suddenly she slapped the surface of the water and I cried out as the spray drenched my clothes.

    My arm slammed into something heavy and I heard the sound of breaking glass. I glanced back to see the lantern spilled over, the flame catching on the oil-bathed fronds next to the table.

    “Hanaku, that’s cheating!” Misiya complained.

    “I can’t help it! She’s only been around to teach us for an hour.”

    “Girls…” I sighed. The flame was spreading, crawling its way towards a nearby tree. With the dry weather we had the past month, I didn’t want to let it spread much further. I was just about to draw the water out of the barrel to extinguish it when I heard a voice behind me.

    “What is this?” A woman asked. “Are you even teaching my daughter or are you just playing games?”

    “No, we’re learning,” Hanaku said, her face the picture of innocence.

    “Yeah mom!” Misiya chimed in. “Katerei was just teaching us, um…”

    “Cooking,” I finished. “I was going to teach them cooking.”

    “Oh, well, be careful then.” The skeptical Lumara glanced at the burning oak tree behind me before turning away.

    “Phew, that was close,” Misiya said once her mom was out of earshot.

    “Are you going to show us some waterbending now?” Hanaku asked.

    “Don’t call it that,” I said. With one fluid motion, I lifted the contents of the bucket into the air and slammed them into the flame, extinguishing it. “It gives people the wrong idea.”

    Misiya leaned down to pick the canoe up out of the grass. “That was pretty cool. When can you teach us that move?”

    “Yeah, I want to see more waterbending from Kat,” Nili’s voice said from behind my shoulder.

    “Seriously?” I asked her skeptically. Nili had always been more interested in the festival dancers and boys than the antayul.

    “Of course,” Nili said, clapping her hands together. She lowered her voice. “It’s actually pretty amazing to see you work. When you get caught up in it, it’s almost like you’re dancing with the water.”

    “I hadn’t thought of it that way,” I mused. Water dancing. That sounded more glorious than bucket-filling.

    “Come on girls,” Nili said. “Grab some buckets and we’ll head to the river to watch Kat dance.” The two of them took off, nearly tripping over each other in their excitement.

    “They seem overly eager.”

    “Well, I don’t think the adults have much time for children anymore,” Nili said sadly. “Besides, you’re kind of a hero to them. You’ve stood up to Selax.”

    “I’ve done more than that,” I said, scrunching up my face.

    “I’ll bet!” Nili winked.

    “So,” I cleared my throat. “I brought back a souvenir from the earth kingdom.”

    “The mages gave you something? Tiernan said they were reclusive.”

    “They are.” I picked a book up off of the table. “But they gave me one of their cryptic prophecies anyway.” I thumbed through it, showing hundreds of pages covered in scrawling text. “All I have to do now is figure out what it says.”

    I arched an eyebrow at Nili. “Has Tiernan taught you how to read yet?”

    “Oh, he’s tried,” Nili said, scraping her toes against the dirt. “Speaking of which, have you slept with Fendul yet?”

    I stepped back, surprised. “I fail to see how that’s related,” I said, feeling my cheeks heat up.

    “Wow, really? You’ve been married a whole month and you still haven’t…?” Hanaku asked. The two girls had returned, arms full of buckets.

    “And what would you know about adult relationships?” I asked her.

    “More than you apparently,” the teenager replied.

    “My mom has been teaching us all about how salmon fertilize the trees when they grow up!” Misiya chimed in.

    “Um, Misiya.” Hanaku turned to her friend. “She’s not a Tamu…”

    I turned back to Nili, setting the book back down while she handed me a bucket. “Anyway, I think this prophecy is kind of important. The more help I can get deciphering it, the better off we’ll be when it comes time to face the Corvittai again.”

    “What have you figured out so far?” Nili asked as we started towards the river.

    “Not much,” I admitted. “They call the prophecy Rift. I think it has something to do with void magic.”

    “Or maybe it’s a guide on how to ruin your friendships,” Hanaku suggested. When I glared at her she shrugged. “I’m just saying. Sounds like an ominous name to me.”

    “It’s a lot of words to pore through. Do you think Tiernan would be willing to help?” I asked Nili.

    “Well, I would ask him, but he’s kind of unavailable at the moment.” Nili blushed.

    “That’s inconvenient. Do you know when he’ll be back?”

    “Maybe your prophecy will tell you,” she joked.

    I made a mental note to drown her when we got to the river.


    I didn’t realize Fendul was standing over me until he put a shawl over my shoulders.

    “Thanks,” I said, rubbing my eyes. I had been staring at the text for so long the letters on the page were beginning to swim.

    “Maybe you should take a break,” he said, moving the flickering lantern back so my stretching arms wouldn’t accidentally hit it.

    “I know, but I think this is important.”

    “How far have you read?” he asked, glancing down at the pages.

    “Not far,” I yawned. “A few paragraphs maybe. I keep trying but it’s so depressing I can’t focus. But nothing so far about Iollan.”

    “Who?” he frowned in confusion.

    “You know, that Rift Mage I told you about,” I said, waving my hand in the air.

    “You didn’t really tell me anything…”

    “I didn’t?” I shifted around in my seat to face him.

    “Kat, you showed up in camp a bloody mess.” He sighed. “Then you ruined my best shirt and collapsed in a muddy pile on the ground. There weren’t any opportunities for you to tell me about much of anything.”

    “Oh,” I said, feeling my cheeks warm. “Well, we learned from the mages that the Corvittai hired a man from Ingdanrad. His name is Iollan och Cormic.”

    “Sounds like the Sverbian chef we used to trade with,” he mused.

    “He’s from Gall,” I corrected. “And he knows Rift Magic.”

    Fendul let out a long breath. “So, the Corvittai have the Gall to try and open a pathway to the void.”

    “Pretty much. And I’m convinced their secret plan is documented in here somewhere. If only my eyes would stop watering enough to focus.”

    His face flooded with concern and I knew the telltale sign that he was struggling not to lecture me. In the end, he simply said, “Kat, you should get some rest. The book will still be here when you get back from your big day tomorrow.”

    “Don’t remind me,” I groaned. Then the weight of his words jolted me upright. “Wait, you know about that?”

    “Yes,” he said. He didn’t speak more, but I could see the pain in his eyes.

    “Fen, there’s something I’ve been wanting to do.” I reached out towards him, brushed my fingers against the lace on his shirt, but he clasped his hand over mine, stopping me.

    “We can’t,” he said. “I can’t. Not under the agreement.”

    “Aeldu take the agreement! They can’t blackmail us into this!”

    “Kat, I’m Okorebai now.” He sighed. “My responsibility is to our jouyen first.”

    “But what about us?” I protested. “It’s not fair!”

    He said nothing. He stood there watching me in silence. But I could read the unspoken words on his lips, the desire in his trembling hands. At last, he turned away with a muffled, “You should get some sleep,” leaving me alone with my book.

    It took all my restraint not to throw it at the wall. Or at him.


    I sat slouched in the corner of the Blackened Oak, cloak covering my face. It was ridiculous to think Airedain might find me here, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

    Technically I could argue I was in Caladeå. Was it really my fault if after being away for so long I got ‘lost’ in the city I barely knew? I figured if I could make it until sundown I could say I tried and go home. From the light coming through the grimy window, I would only need to make it another couple hours.

    “Hey Koehl,” Iannah clapped me on the shoulder, sending me bolt upright in shock. My knees slammed into the underside of the table and I collapsed back in my chair, hissing.

    Iannah frowned at my reaction. “What’s gotten into you?”

    Before I could reply, another man slid into the seat next to her. “For someone who is pretending to not draw attention to herself, you sure are drawing a lot of attention to yourself,” Rapierian remarked, setting his steaming mug on the table.

    “I – um…” I glanced around, noticed most of the conversation had stopped as patrons glanced over at me.

    “We can go in the back.” Rapierian said, jerking his thumb towards the stairs. “I’m renting a room from Talos.”

    “Sure,” I said. I followed the two of them through the mob, ignoring the staring eyes, constantly scanning the crowd for any sign of spiky hair. Even after we entered the back hall and started climbing the stairs, my muscles were still tense. It was only once they shut the door on the upstairs room that I unwrapped my face and let out the breath I didn’t realize I had been holding.

    “So,” Iannah prompted, setting her sword down on the nightstand and adjusting her auburn bun. “What brings a charming Rin lady to our humble abode?” She plopped down on the woolen cot.

    “I’m hiding from someone,” I told her.

    “Now tell us something we don’t already know,” Rapierian said, sitting down next to Iannah.

    I explained how the Iyo were blackmailing me into a date with Airedain. Iannah nodded along, asking questions here and there while Rapierian just sipped from his mug.

    “So, that starfish has suddenly taken a romantic interest in you? I don’t buy that for a second,” Iannah said.

    “He must not know her very well if he thinks he has a chance,” Rapierian snickered.

    “What do you mean by that?” I crossed my arms.

    “Well, I’ve been trying for a year without any success,” Iannah remarked.

    “Huh?”

    “I wanted to take you to that meteor shower, remember?”

    “And I asked you at Tiernan’s wedding,” Rapierian said.

    “Wait, Iannah I can believe. But you were interested in me? I thought you were asking me to help dig up some graves.”

    “You seem to have an unflattering opinion of my work.” He picked up his mug again only to find it empty. He shook out the remaining drops onto the wooden floor and set the mug aside.

    “In my defense, you smelled like rotting flesh. If that doesn’t come from digging up corpses, you have some unfortunate body odor.”

    “Oh.” He shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid we had a misunderstanding.” He reached into a pocket of his dark cloak and pulled out a vial of something foul-smelling. “I’m an alchemist, you see. I’ve been trying out a new perfume derived from graveweed, but as you so aptly noted, the current incarnation has had…less than desirable results.”

    “I’m sure you’ll find the right mix soon enough,” Iannah said, patting him on the shoulder.

    “Wait!” I glanced at the two of them, suddenly cognizant that they were sitting awfully close to one another. “Are the two of you together?”

    “Indeed,” Iannah said, taking up Rapierian’s hand in her own. “It was time for me to find the other salmon in the stream, as they say.”

    “But how did you even meet? You weren’t at Tiernan’s wedding!”

    “Well,” Iannah glanced over at Rapierian. “Remember when you burned down the Parr house? I was sorting through the rubble the other day when he came along.”

    “It was a bit of a shock to see my childhood house turned into ash,” Rapierian said. “Though I should have expected no less from a friend of Tiernan’s.”

    “Wait, you’re related to Parr?” I jumped out of my chair.

    “I’m his son,” Rapierian said flatly.

    “Don’t you see the family resemblance?” Iannah asked, running a finger along his chin. “They have the same jawline. Which is quite fortunate, since you sort of killed my other choice.”

    “And I’ve always had a thing for redheads,” Rapierian added.

    “I see,” I said, glancing between the two of them. My knees wobbled and I sank back down into my chair. “Well, congratulations. I guess?”

    “You don’t have to feel so dejected. Plenty of room on the hillside for three.” Iannah winked.

    “Thanks, but I think I have a big enough mess to deal with right now.” I sighed.

    “You could just get the three dates with Airedain over with and turn him down,” Rapierian suggested. He nodded at the tattoos on my left arm. “The longer this drags out, the more it’s going to affect your lover.”

    “I know,” I said, slumping down in my chair. “But even if I can make Airedain go away, my people are still facing genocide. Even worse, now there’s a renegade Rift Mage working for Selax who wants to tear the world apart.”

    “That doesn’t sound good,” Rapierian remarked.

    “Can we help?” Iannah asked.

    “I should’ve brought my book,” I said, smacking my palm against my forehead. “I have a book of prophecies, but I can barely read your language. You two would be much faster at deciphering it than me.”

    “Bring it by next time and we’ll see what secrets we can pry loose,” Rapierian offered.

    “Thanks,” I said. A glance out the window showed it was finally dusk. “I should be going.”

    I stood, picking up my cloak, but Iannah stopped me with a touch on my arm.

    “Kat, we’re serious,” she said. “Relationships are about trust. Let us help you. That’s what friends are for.”

    “What makes you think I don’t trust you?” I asked, frowning.

    “The fact that you were hiding in a corner instead of coming to see me.” She dropped her grip and I pulled away, blushing.

    I took two steps towards the door and stopped. My friends watched me quietly from the bed. Maybe she had a point. I reversed myself and rushed over, wrapping them both in a tight hug.

    “Thank you, guys,” I said.

    “Let us help,” Iannah said again, patting me on the head. If we were back at camp, the elders would have scolded her for that, but here I could just close my eyes and let her fingers roam free.

    “I will,” I said, straightening and smoothing the wrinkles from my shirt. “I promise.”


    The fires of the Rin camp were burning brightly when I returned, as I expected. What was unusual was the long line of women waiting outside the healers’ cabin. Old, young, they all seemed to be waiting impatiently. And they all had dolphin tattoos on their left arm.

    I found Nili at a table, licking muffin crumbs off her fingers. When she saw me, her eyes widened and she hurried over.

    “Kat, this is bad,” she whispered.

    “Airedain was pissed?”

    “Well, yes, but this is worse!” She pointed at the line of women. “Word got out that Fendul might be available again and now all the single women in Toel Ginu want to court him!”

    I frowned in confusion. “But those are Iyo tattoos I see. Okorebai cannot marry outside the tribe.”

    “Exactly! That’s why they’re all lining up to amputate their left arm so they can join the Rin!”

    “That’s crazy!” I looked back at the line in horror. All those people, some old enough to be my grandmother. Others barely older than my apprentices. “Who thought of that?”

    “Apparently Mereku started it. Her broken arm won’t allow her to fly anymore, so she had it cut off. By gaining a kinaru tattoo and a Rin husband, she thinks she’ll be able to fly again.”

    “That’s horrible,” I said, staring at Nili in shock. “Where’s Fendul? He needs to put an end to this farce!”

    “He’s um…” Nili looked down at her feet. “Remember when you thought Airedain was pissed? Well, the Iyo elders were even more so.”

    “Oh.” I hadn’t meant to get Fendul in trouble, but I suppose I should’ve seen that coming.

    “Anyway, you should get out of here before–“

    “Ai, Rin girl!” An unwelcome voice shouted.

    “Oh great,” I muttered, feeling a headache approach already.

    “Welp, I have chores to do,” Nili said, backing away. “Good luck!”

    “Traitor!” I called out after her. I took a deep breath, steeling myself for the confrontation to come, then turned to face a visibly upset Airedain.

    “What, no witty flattery today?” I asked him.

    “We had a deal,” he said. “That was Strike One.”

    “I guess I don’t know my way around the city as well as I thought.”

    “Keep this up and the Iyo will back out of your precious alliance. What will the Rin do once they’re stuck facing the Corvittai all by themselves?”

    “That’s ridiculous! Selax is trying to destroy the world. The Iyo are part of this whether they like it or not.”

    “You don’t have any proof of that,” he said, smirking.

    “Sure I do. I–“ I didn’t really want to tell him about the book. “We heard about it in Ingandrad.”

    “Oh, so the Rin claim they heard an apocalyptic prediction that requires everyone else to serve at the behest of the Rin? How convenient.”

    “Nonsense, Ilani and Mereku heard it too!”

    “Mereku the Rin sympathizer? Or Ilani, the poor girl distraught over her brother’s death? Something you Rin may have had a hand in to coerce her cooperation.”

    “This is absurd!” I said, stamping my foot into the ground. “Why would I gamble with the lives of everyone around me? I’m trying to save my people, not destroy them!”

    “Well, not doing a good job of that, eh?” He grinned. “Maybe next time you’ll keep your promises.”

    “I don’t get this. Why do you feel so strongly about convincing me? We obviously have no interest in each other.”

    “Oh, I wouldn’t say that. I have an interest in you now. And I don’t even want to kill you anymore!” He leered at me.

    “Oh?” I asked, putting my hands on my hips.

    “Turns out, some things are worse than death.” He leaned in close and lowered his voice. “Imagine how your pretty boy will feel once he sees you running around carrying my child.”

    “You are a sick, twisted bastard,” I hissed.

    “Hey,” he said, straightening. “I’ve got a reputation to keep.” He spit on his hand and used it to straighten one of the drooping spikes in his hair. “So let’s try this again. Two days, dawn, Caladheå fountain square. Got it?”

    I glared at him, grinding my teeth together hard enough my jaw ached. “Got it.”

    “If you get ‘lost’ again, I suggest you stop and ask directions,” he said, sauntering off with a wave. I prayed the Aeldu would let him trip in a hole and break his neck.


    The ocean was calm, the shoreline deserted save for a huddled figure I could barely make out in the moonlight. In a way, I think I understood. Out here, I was away from the bustle of camp. Away from the expectations of people that wanted to control my life. Here, it would just be me and the waves.

    I felt a little guilty about disturbing her solitude, but I was running out of options. So, as softly as I could manage, I crept across the sand and sat down next to the solemn woman.

    “What do you want?” Ilani asked, keeping her gaze focused on the waves rolling in. The water reached almost to our feet, making me glad I had come barefoot.

    “I wanted to ask you something,” I said, suddenly uncertain where to begin.

    “I hear you studied healing magic.”

    I froze.

    “Is it true?” She turned her red-rimmed eyes on me. “Did you know how to save my Esiad?”

    “No,” I said. “I knew a healer, but she mixed poultices. I haven’t studied any healing magic or read any books in mysterious pyramids or anything like that.”

    She turned back to the waves, saying nothing.

    “I swear to you. There was nothing I could have done for him. Though I wish there were.”

    Another wave rolled in, the sea foam bubbling as it covered our toes before the water receded. I could hear the faint cry of sea birds as a flock flew across the sky.

    “What did you want to know?” she asked.

    “How do you feel about Airedain?”

    She snorted. “Once, I would have been impressed with his drumming, his flattery.” She wrapped her arms around her knees, pulling them to her chest. “Now I know better.”

    “So, you don’t like him?”

    “I don’t think he’s interested in me.” Her fingers idly scratched her arm. “Or any viirelei girls actually. Always see him around town, knocking up another unsuspecting pigeon.”

    “Oh,” I said. It was not an answer I was expecting. “So, he has a Sverbian lover?”

    “Twelve of them. Though I doubt you can call them lovers. He leaves them as soon as their stomachs start to bulge. I almost feel sorry for the poor things.” Ilani lowered her chin onto her knees. “Caladheå is not friendly towards half-breeds.”

    “So, this thing…”

    “I know what you’re looking for,” she said. She turned to face me again. “And I’ll help you.”

    “You will?” I blinked in surprise.

    “I’ve been branded as ‘mentally unstable’ by my Okorebai. No one will take anything I say seriously now, and it’s all because of this stupid game Airedain is playing for who knows what reason.” Her eyes locked onto mine. “I’ll help you, if it means an end to this nonsense.”

    “We Iyo have a saying that when troubled waters are afoot, the only recourse is to face them head on. 'Swim hard enough and the surf will break.'”

    “That’s nice, but I’m not Iyo.”

    “Well then, Rin.” Her eyes sparkled and for the first time, I saw the faint hint of a smile on her face. “I suppose you had best learn how to sail.”



  • @avatara_bot, on 04 July 2016 - 05:28 AM, said in Adrift:

    Mereku made it to the tree line before she ran out of momentum. I watched her form plummet to the ground, out of sight. Even at this distance, we could hear the boom as she crashed.

    Did you just... kill Mereku by making her a beached whale?

    Quote

    “There is no way I will marry that creep!” I panted. Something sticky was oozing out of my midsection. I wiped my hand in disgust on the blanket. “I’d rather eat two bushels of dogbane.”

    -_-

    Quote

    “I know why you’re here.” The door creaked loudly as she pulled it open. “Come on in.” She gestured towards a round table set up in the main room. One of the chairs was already occupied by another old woman I knew. Akiga glanced up from her steaming cup of tea and scowled.

    Tokoda and Akiga's matchmaking service would actually be a hilarious spinoff. Two cranky old codgers trying to find true love for their tribes... but they'll settle for a smidgeon of tolerance.

    Quote

    “What do you call something with two legs, long hair, and a funny looking limp?”

    I stopped and turned, putting my hands on my hips. “I don’t know, what?”

    “Beautiful,” he said, flashing his teeth in a wide grin.

    Awwww. That's sweet! I might just steal this for Rift.

    Quote

    The skeptical Lumara glanced at the burning oak tree behind me before turning away.

    Hey, I got that reference!

    Quote

    “My mom has been teaching us all about how salmon fertilize the trees when they grow up!” Misiya chimed in.

    headdesk

    Quote

    Fendul let out a long breath. “So, the Corvittai have the Gall to try and open a pathway to the void.”

    oh my god

    Quote

    “Oh.” He shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid we had a misunderstanding.” He reached into a pocket of his dark cloak and pulled out a vial of something foul-smelling. “I’m an alchemist, you see. I’ve been trying out a new perfume derived from graveweed, but as you so aptly noted, the current incarnation has had…less than desirable results.”

    He should go into business with Tokoda and Akiga selling aphrodisiacs.

    Quote

    “Indeed,” Iannah said, taking up Rapierian’s hand in her own. “It was time for me to find the other salmon in the stream, as they say.”

    I ship that. I want to steal this phrase too.

    Quote

    “Turns out, some things are worse than death.” He leaned in close and lowered his voice. “Imagine how your pretty boy will feel once he sees you running around carrying my child.”

    That... is way more messed up than anything I've written.

    Quote

    “Well then, Rin.” Her eyes sparkled and for the first time, I saw the faint hint of a smile on her face. “I suppose you had best learn how to sail.”

    Aww, that's the end? I wanted to see Aireko on a date together.



  • Finally I can post a reply here ^ ****_^ I already said all of this in the channel when I was reading, but I wanted to post them here.

    This story was great fun : ****D And way longer than I expected! (I guess I should have realized it would be massive!) Very impressive, especially for only two days’ of writing @_@ I was laughing all day over the jokes in this story ^_ __^ Some of my favourite parts:

    Quote

    Having lived in a forest my whole life, nothing prepared me for what I saw when I stepped inside that underground city. Built by earth-shapers, the whole mountain had been hallowed out…

    Dude, that sounds so cool! Will we get to see canon-Ingdanrad in a future book, Kat? ^_ ****^ (Ooh, or later in this book!)

    Quote

    Mereku made it to the tree line before she ran out of momentum. I watched her form plummet to the ground, out of sight.

    Aww snap! I guess orcas really can’t fly after all ):

    Quote

    the trademark banners of the Corvittai: a white kinaru in a red circle crossed by a thick red line.

    That banner is brilliant! : ****D

    Quote

    “As you know, the Iyo have graciously taken the Rin under our flipper.”

    I liked the dolphin reference ^_ ****^

    Quote

    "The only way out is for someone to take her place.”

    “She means you,” Akiga helpfully clarified.

    Akiga is so thoughtful and helpful!

    Quote

    “Three dates is all your Okorebai has agreed to. For now.”

    I was thinking about how overall Fail-world worked out better for most of characters than Sail-world, but at least in Sail-world K hasn’t had two divorces at the age of 18. But, really, you could blame both of those divorces on Fendul…

    Quote

    “What do you call something with two legs, long hair, and a funny looking limp?”

    I stopped and turned, putting my hands on my hips. “I don’t know, what?”

    “Beautiful,” he said, flashing his teeth in a wide grin. It might’ve worked if I hadn’t met him before.

    Even jerk-Airedain is totally charming! <3 How can you not like him?

    Quote

    “But they gave me one of their cryptic prophecies anyway.”

    Score!

    Quote

    I arched an eyebrow at Nili. “Has Tiernan taught you how to read yet?”

    “Oh, he’s tried,” Nili said, scraping her toes against the dirt. “Speaking of which, have you slept with Fendul yet?”

    So Tiernan likes to read while… never mind o_O

    Quote

    “So, the Corvittai have the Gall to try and open a pathway to the void.”

    This is one pun that got a laugh instead of a groan :x (Though judging from Kat’s post, it also got a groan)

    Quote

    Before I could reply, another man slid into the seat next to her.

    Yay, Rapierian! : ****D

    Quote

    "I’ve been trying out a new perfume derived from graveweed…”

    That sounds like a bad idea.

    Quote

    “But even if I can make Airedain go away, my people are still facing genocide. Even worse, now there’s a renegade Rift Mage working for Selax who wants to tear the world apart.”

    “That doesn’t sound good,” Rapierian remarked.

    Rapierian is so cool! : ****D His attitude is the best!

    Quote

    “Exactly! That’s why they’re all lining up to amputate their left arm so they can join the Rin!”

    I didn’t realize marrying Fendul was so coveted! He’s okay but…

    Quote

    “We had a deal,” he said. “That was Strike One.”

    Even you have to admit that canon-Airedain is way sweeter than this bully!

    Quote

    "I haven’t studied any healing magic or read any books in mysterious pyramids or anything like that.”

    Alas, if only she could trade places with her other self!

    This post has been edited by BreadWorldMercy453 : 14 July 2016 - 03:30 PM


  • Global Moderator

    @breadworldmercy453_bot, on 14 July 2016 - 03:27 PM, said in Adrift:

    So Tiernan likes to read while… never mind o_O

    Well, don't forget that Kat left her picture book collection behind when she moved out.


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