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Wrannaman Book — Prelude
I’m writing an open source sci-fi novel. You can follow along here or https://wrannaman.com
Kaiya sat in a corner of their cell in the hull of the ship with her legs crossed. Though her eyes were closed she was facing a sleeping Wraith in the cage next to them. “Gone” she whispered as she exhaled. Quiet enough that the others didn’t hear. Gone for all the things that were. Gone for the things that she was holding onto only hours before. She had entered the Drop, just the way Eros had taught her, by visualizing a single drop of water falling from the top of her head into her center. The focus was ebbing in and out of her, as she floated in and out of sleep. It was hard to make the world fall away in such an environment, but then again, that was the point of the practice. To be able to do it under all circumstances. Whenever clarity and focus was needed. She needed the separation to think for a moment on their current situation, and to plan an escape, but it was night again, and she was cramped, tired, and thirsty.
Ayala rubbed her head slightly and tried to sleep against Arryn, who had been asleep for several hours. His right eye swollen shut from an altercation while they were being forced into the metal cage. Shim was watching Kaiya, momentarily forgetting where she was. She admired Kaiya’s discipline, and chastised herself for forgetting so much of the training they had all had since they were little. She even admired her beauty. Though she loathed to admit it, she knew she was looking to Kaiya for an answer out of here. Yes, she may have been the reason they got caught, but the sense of loyalty and inclusion in the Y had been trained into them since birth. Everyone, even outsiders, were of equal standing in the Y. To attack one was to attack all, and to capture one was to capture all. Everyone in the Y that grew up there was trained to fight, and it was a rite of passage to be able to fight with grace. Much like the kids in generations past chose an instrument to learn, these kids picked a weapon. It didn’t matter which they picked, only that they picked one and continued training with it. Some stuck with the same one they picked as a kid, yet others went on to learn several weapons. Kaiya was always very good, and had kept up the practice on her own after the school stopped providing mandatory lessons. Some of the other kids did as well, but the long peace they endured had made them complacent. Why learn something you didn’t need, and hadn’t needed your entire young life? Each of them while battling the Sikkas back to back had at least one kill. Anyone who saw them fight, and many did as they rushed out of the way, would have said they did so valiantly.
Shim grew impatient. She woke Arryn with a gentle, accidental kick. He opened his eyes violently, ready for another attack. His racket woke Ayala who similarly prepared to awaken to the worst.
“Light, Shim,” Arryn said quietly, rubbing his eyes.
“We need a plan,” she said flatly.
“Yeah, no shit we need a plan, ” Ayala whispered.
“What do we have to work with?“ Shim asked.
They began emptying their pockets. Petr dropped something on the ground from his pocket and it banged against the bar nearest the Wraith. Everyone held their breath, but the Wraith didn’t budge. Petr’s cheeks flushed. Kaiya remained cross legged with her eyes closed. An arrow head, a cork, a small knife, and some mint leaves.
“Brig, only you would have a fist full of mint leaves in your pocket,” Petr sighed. Brig shrugged without seeing a problem.
As they looked over their supplies, Kaiya joined the group. She stood over them, looking at the tiny pile. She looked to her left, at the giant Wraith sleeping, or off, or whatever it did when it wasn’t “on”. It’s nose was breathing into their cage.
“Do you think a Wraith could break through this cage if it was angry?” Kaiya asked, almost whispering now, staring at the Wraith.
“I could almost do it if I was angry. This boat is a piece of shit.” Ayala puffed. “We’re going to upset a Wraith? That’s our plan?” Arryn said hesitantly.
Kaiya pulled string out of her pocket and threw it on the pile.
“We’re going to make a bow and arrow. Shim, can you find a loose piece of metal or wood? One for the bow and one for the arrow. “
Shim looked around the cage and spotted a promising place to start. In a few minutes, they had assembled an arrow attached to a thin but straight stick and had carved out a small bow from a loose floorboard. They smoothed the edges with the pocket knife. It was no larger than Arryn’s forearm, but it would eject that arrow at enough of a velocity to hopefully penetrate the Wraith just enough to wake it up and piss it off. Hopefully.
“There’s no way this is going to work. It’s skin is too thick,” Arryn dismissed the plan in favor of despair. Ayala went on her stomach and slowly creeped up to the side of the cage where the Wraith slept. She searched for a point of weakness, studying the creature’s hide, then crawled backwards to the other side of the cage.
“I think there could be an opening, under the ear, it looked soft.” she reported. “What are we hoping is going to happen?” Arryn asked. Kaiya picked up the little bow and arrow and aimed it right under the right ear of the Wraith.
“Chaos.” She said, and she let the arrow fly.
The whisper of the arrow culminated in a raucous roar as the Wraith raged in pain. It spun around quickly, damaging the curved wooden backing of the hull and water started trickling in. Three Sikka guards came rushing down the stairs to find the Wraith trying to break out of its cage. The closest Sikka to the cage turned to grab a shock stick hanging on the wall when the Wraith broke through the cage trying to get the arrow out of its head. The whole ship shuddered and splinters of wood were thrown into the air as the bolts binding the cage to the ship were ripped out. The Wraith destroyed the guard accidentally before he could kill it and it raged up the stairs onto the main deck of the ship, forcing itself through the small opening. Other Wraiths were awake now, howling, ramming their own cages trying to break free.
The water was up to their ankles now, and Arryn was already trying to pry open loose metal bars that they might squeeze through. He wedged his back up to one side and began pushing off another bar to make the opening bigger. The rest of them began pulling in opposite directions. The bar gave way just enough for them to slip through sideways.
The water was up to their knees now, rushing in torrents. “We’re going to have to swim,” Shim realized out loud. Ayala began pulling at the hole to allow them to get out more easily. Another board came loose and the opening could release them into the ocean one at a time. A large waterskin floated by. Kaiya emptied the skin and filled it with air. Quickly she tied several metal bars to it so it wouldn’t float, and could be used to help them stay underwater without fighting their buoyancy.
It was up to their waist now. Shouts from the deck above sounded like they were coming closer. “Keep under the water as long as you can”, Kaiya said, and took a deep breath. They held hands, or tried to, as they exited the boat’s hull and suddenly found themselves tumbling under water, with debris all around and the muffled sounds of men yelling to contain the few other Wraith that escaped.
They found each other under the water and formed a small circle. Kaiya took a breath from the water skin and passed it to Brig who accidentally twisted the entire top off, and let out some of the air trapped inside. He inhaled guiltily. They passed it around until it was empty. Each of them focusing on making their breath last as long as they could, passing the water between them until it was empty. Shim tapped Kaiya on the hand. Kaiya opened her eyes and saw that Shim had some blood trickling out of a cut on her stomach. Kaiya put her hands on the side’s of Shim’s face. They touched lips. Kaiya gave some of her breath to Shim, who after a moment signaled she was okay. Ayala signalled that she needed help too and Arryn shook his head, clearly struggling to maintain his own breath. Kaiya touched lips with Ayala too, and then they sat together, waiting. The air in them faded, they made their way to the surface, grabbing on to whatever debris they could manage to find, trying to keep their heads low.
Dredge held a bloody sword, still dripping from having to end a Wraith. It was always unfortunate when this happened. And it wasn’t the first time this had happened. Their supplies were running dangerously low, and they’d had to begin using ancient naturally powered transports like this boat. It was privileged information to know that the Sikkas were running out of raw material. They’d even discussed repurposing the beautiful buildings in the financial district of the city to turn into war supplies. Over the millennia of scavenging, they continued to have to travel farther and farther to find sufficient raw material for their needs. The ship would be repaired in due time. They called another Sikka ship nearby. Their ship sank, and they floated like so much debris around the archipelago. It was fortunate timing. The girl couldn’t have known where they were. It was a lucky guess that they did what they did near these tiny islands. Dredge and his soldiers half floated half swam to the nearest short. They looked around as much as they could for the prisoners but did not find them. With so many currents, and so many little islands, they could have gone anywhere by now. And without a ship, there wasn’t much he could do. He’d have to head back to Imperial City, explain what happened and see where they would send him next. He knew there would be a review of the events that led to the disappearance of the prisoners they won. And a shit ton of paperwork. He sat down on the sandy shore and pulled up the video from the hull on his wrist screen and watched as the crew held hands while the water filled up the space.
He waived his screen away and sighed. The sensors he put on them said they were all dead. It showed they floated down to the bottom of the ocean beneath where the ship was when the event occurred, but he didn’t believe it to be true. He knew there was an intervention, he knew the Wrannamen had been close, which meant those prisoners, or most likely the girl was important. He’d find her again. And every Sikka would get updated with her profile in their database. Everyone would be looking for her now, including the Wrannamen. When the new ship arrived, they stayed near the archipelago where they lost her. They hopped from island to island looking for any trace of them. After a couple of hours, the tide and current shifted, further widening the possible places they could be. A night passed and they called for more soldiers. They’d burn the entire set of islands if they had to. It was just a matter of time before Dredge found her again.