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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 swam in her dream. She was underwater and scrambled to breach the surface of stormy waters, sucking in the salty air. It wasn’t really like she was really underwater, but almost as if she were in a simulation of being underwater. It was just before dawn though she could see ships, tall ships. War ships. The fine details weren’t there, it was like a low poly rendering of ships. Many ships manned with Sikka soldiers and palettes of angry Wraiths, and sleeping Trackers. Suddenly she was floating over the deck of the ship. Their commander opened his wrist screen and she saw the Y was their destination. Horrified, she looked up at the horizon and saw the Y coming into view. The council gathered around Kaiya in the room. Her consciousness ebbed in waves.
“Kaiya… Kaiya,” Eros’ voice lulled her awake, gently stroking her hair.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Arryn and Ayala being chastised by Wellington. Her hand stung. She clenched it closed with a grimace, then pulled it up to her face and opened it slowly. The symbol embedded into her hand was the same one embedded in the black stone. Two overlapping triangles. She looked at it suspiciously,
I swear I heard a voice, she thought.
Eros smiled at her, stroking her hair, “Are you in pain?”.
“No, my hand burns. Just tired. I feel calm…” She said it as a realization and looked to Eros to see if he could interpret it for her.
“It seems we have learned a bit more about the stone. It does not affect everyone the same.” Eros said to the council
“Dad, the Sikkas. I saw them with ships. They’re going to attack the Y.” The words took all her strength.
“If they’re within several miles of our port, we’ll see them long before they reach our shore,” Wellington said as much to the council as a response to Kaiya.
Eros eyed his daughter. Wellington’s answer didn’t give him confidence. If he was wrong, then fine, no need to cause alarm, but if he was right, those precious few seconds might save the city. There was no perimeter detection in the ocean. They had some patrol boats out in the port and the bay, but if they went quietly, then there would not be ample warning by the time they could be seen.
The council looked somewhat relieved. Another unconscious body in the hospital would not do anybody any good. It would be hard to keep that a secret. The first body was hardly a secret anymore now that a few hours had passed. Eros tried to hide his concern. He had encountered this symbol before, and when he did, it changed his life forever. But the fact that Kaiya was somehow able to touch the stone without getting gravely hurt gave him hope. Still, anxiety swelled in his gut.
Kaiya’s history is coming for her, Eros thought to himself. I knew that it would. She should know what I know before anything else happens. Perhaps it will save her. He hadn’t kept many secrets from her. But the ones he did keep were large and inevitable. The truth about Kaiya’s mother.
They helped her up and sat her on a cracked leather couch in the adjoining room. Assured that she would be okay, the council left one by one. She fell asleep immediately. After all, Kaiya’s reaction to it had been different from the man who found the stone. He had passed out immediately and became violently ill, but Kaiya just seemed tired and indelibly marked.
Wellington grabbed Eros’ arm lightly in the hallway. Eros turned around and looked at the man square in the eyes.
“You know something,” Wellington stated.
“And you didn’t tell the council”
“No, and neither will you, yet.”
“Why, what is this stone? What does it mean?”
“It’s the symbol of the Wrannamen. When Kaiya was born, there was this… event. We lost Kaiya’s mother, my wife. Kaiya and I were suddenly of interest to the Sikkas and had to leave the city. That’s when I left, and came here. It was the Controller I apprenticed under that helped me and Kaiya get out of the city alive.”
“Why wouldn’t we tell the council about this?”
“I don’t want to put Kaiya in danger. If the Sikkas know we’re both here, we’d need to leave again, and I’m not sure where we’d go.”
“If they wanted you dead Eros-”
“I know, I’d be dead already, but they haven’t done anything about it so far.”
“Waiting perhaps, for a moment like this one. We should prepare, Eros. We should be ready if they do come. Even if the chance is remote. Kaiya mentioned something about ships when she woke up.”
“Yes she did. And if they do come, we will not be ready. Not in a month, not in a year,” Eros spoke from experience, “it may be time I go and see some old acquaintances and get the latest intel. I’ve been keeping my head low. Too low perhaps. How much do you know of the Wrannamen?”
Wellington shook his head, “I have heard myths, but I never took them for truth.”
“After the Awakening and after the consciousness had been split, the Sikkas took one half, and the Wrannamen took the other half.”
“That much I’m familiar with,” Wellington said to expedite the history lesson.
“We’ve all been taught a Sikka-centric view of history. The Sikkas want to bring the two halves together, and by re-uniting them, re-create the world as it once was. That much is true, in theory. They seek to recombine the two halves, but only as far as it would further their empire. There is no future for civilization under their rule. This is what the Wrannamen fight against. Both want to reunite the halves, but one stands for freedom, and the other, oppression.”
“We need to tell the council about this.”
“It’s in your hands,” Eros conceded, “I need to go find out what’s really going on, and see how much danger Kaiya is in.”
Wellington left Eros in the hallway. Eros cracked the wooden door to the room to check on Kaiya, her scarred hand resting open to her side. He took her home, using his cart and set her up in her own bed. She slept the whole way. Kaiya woke up in her own bed feeling refreshed. She wasn’t tired, or in much pain anymore, just a faint tingling in her hand. She was anxious to go find her friends and get ready for the ceremony with Shim. She popped up out of bed and started packing up her stuff.
“I’m heading back into the city for the ceremony.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes! I’m going to miss it if I sit here any longer. I want to meet up with everyone on the slide.”
“The slide can wait, what just happened was a miracle, a dangerous miracle. Kaiya, I wanted to tell you something I did not tell the council.” Kaiya looked up at him.
“What happened to mom?”
“I don’t know. I have theories, but I have no proof. I want to go find out.”
“She left us.”
“I refuse to believe that.”
“Then she’s dead. She would have sent something otherwise right?”
“I don’t know yet Kaiya, I need to find out. Our time in this sanctuary was sacred to me, I didn’t want to ask questions that would leave us on the run for the rest of our lives. You’re old enough now, and I need the answers as much as you do. I don’t know if we’ll be able to stay here anymore after what happened today. It’s too dangerous. The Sikkas will come, whether it happens like you saw in your dream or not, they will come and take what they’re looking for.”
She searched the floor, her eyes swung and processed, “So what does my new tattoo mean?”
“That symbol is from the Wrannamen. Have you heard that name before?”
“Like the myths?”
“Yes. We will discuss it when I get back, but I wanted you to beware of those who know that name. If you hear it in a whisper, or see it in knowing eyes, or markings on nearby walls, I want you to remember to do one thing.”
Kaiya just looked at him. She knew when he was joking and when he meant what he said. This was the latter. She nodded.
“I’m going to go talk to some old friends, it’s going to take me a couple of days, I’m not sure when I’ll be back. I’ll be leaving in the morning after the ceremony. I’ve been out of touch with what’s going on in Imperial City, and I want to know what today will mean for you. For us. If the Sikkas come here, Kaiya, you get your ass out of this city and go to the Arc. I’ll find you there.” Eros was sullen. The plans, the quick decisions. This is how mistakes are made. Mistakes that caused his wife to be taken from them. He knew the road ahead, the dangers, the very real possibility he may not come back. He knew that his daughter, though fierce, was still young and naive from this tropical paradise she grew up in. Once he left the Y, he’d be on his own. He could handle himself. More accurately, he used to be able to handle himself. It had been a long time now though. Eros kissed her on the forehead and gave her a long hug.
“I love you Kaiya,” Eros held her gaze for a long time, and broke it before the tear dropped.
She took the road back into town to Shim’s place. She lived downtown in a small, airy loft. She had moved out of her parents house at a young age and never looked back once she started working. Her parents ran an offshore fishery and made a modest living exporting fish. It was either fish, technology, or you were on your way to somewhere else. Shim had sun-bleached blonde hair dyed a light pink at the ends and deep brown eyes that looked equal parts sad and wise. She was wearing a linen skirt in vibrant colors and a white top that showed her stomach. It was a night of dancing and dance they would. She had already had her makeup done. She chose 3 thin white lines on each of her cheekbones. And an inverted V on the bridge of her nose.
“How’s the hand?” Shim said, smiling.
“Not the worst I’ve had,” Kaiya winked at her playfully, hiding her fear about what the symbol now burned into her hand meant for her and for those around her.
“You were out for a little while, everyone went up to the slide before the ceremony.” Shim grabbed Kaiya’s hand gently and unravelled her bandage.
“It looks really fucking cool, does it hurt?” She asked, wrapping it back up and adding some more salve to it.
“No, not as bad as it did earlier, but Shim, I swear I didn’t just reach out to touch this thing for no reason, I felt compelled to. I … I thought I heard a voice.” Kaiya said introspectively, as she wrestled the blanket off her and grabbed some water that was left for her.
“You’re hearing voices now? I always thought you were crazy. Now I know,” Shim shook her head, and continued to pack her bag for the evening. Kaiya, feeling restless, got up from the couch and started heading towards the door.
“Hey, where are you going?” Shim laughed, following.
“To the slide, we can figure this stuff out tomorrow. But I’m telling you I heard something. Whatever the hell that thing is, it’s not… normal.“
“No shit. Generally rocks don’t throw out huge bursts of light or scar people in patterns, or hospitalize people, unless of course they’re thrown.”
“Very helpful Shim.”
The streets were even more crowded than they were a few hours ago. Ships poured in from the sea, bearing banners from places Kaiya had never been to. She loved seeing all the different faces, and fashions, and almost as important, their weapons. Of course guns specifically were not allowed, but that didn’t mean people weren’t armed. There were all kinds of modded weapons, most of which were modeled after Sikka weapons which were originally designed by Eros and his mentor.
They made their way to the docs. If it was quiet you would be able to hear the gentle lapping of waves on the hulls of creaky ships, but with the festival, it was a madhouse. Ropes and hoists were tossing things onto ships, off of ships. Hands were being shaken as last minute deals were cut before the festival began. Men with long beards and big hats were recruiting locals to join them on the sea for adventure and profit. Long lines of barely adult youth queued to sign up. They’d had enough of the Y and wanted to get out and see the world.
They weaved through people along the port, passing by the Yeti, the local bar, which was so packed, they had to add overflow seating outside. Kaiya looked over at some men yelling at each other, stepping chest to chest. One of them shoved, and a brawl broke out not 5 yards from them as they watched. Pandemonium ensued, with the bar patrons cheering. Money was being thrown down over who would win. Behind them, the clank of weapons and boots came rushing past as the guards jumped in the mix. One of the younger looking sergeants got hit square in the temple of his metal helmet, which nearly flew off from the punch. The guard went down hard as another clubbed the man with the but of his scabbard. Then with the other hand threw an electrode onto his back and shocked him until he shook himself to the ground. The two men were still swinging at each other, bloody now, as a troupe of local officers stepped in to subdue them both. Cheers erupted as the final swing took one of the fighters down and the money changed hands quickly as they were both tied up and led back towards the makeshift prison they constructed to handle the overflow.
They reached the end of the docks and started up a trail that led to the top of the hill that enclosed the Y on its southern side. As soon as they mounted the top, they saw a young man running at full speed next to a hollowed out rock that looked like a tunnel cut in half. The water rushed through the tunnel, brought in from a river leading from the Arc mountains straight to this place, where it would finally be sent into the ocean. Just as the cliff started steeply arching down towards the sea, he jumped, landing on his butt. The rock slide was smooth from millenia of water passing over it, and of course, some fine tuning from the locals. The boy’s momentum carried him through the rock slide, down and then a slight lip catapulted him over the rest of the cliff and into the ocean below. A few of those in the water splashed avidly to avoid being landed on.
The slide, as the locals called it, was a lengthy waterfall that led into the ocean with crevasses for people to slide down. It dumped the rider directly in the ocean, and the kids over the years had built an elaborate arrangement of ropes and stairs to climb back up. It was crowded tonight, as everyone expected, with the young kids drinking bootleg Hikka, not the high end stuff that her and Eros made.
It was a party up there. A slightly dangerous one for those who had never ridden the slide before, but most were locals, or had asked a local how best to do it. Every other year it seemed there was someone, generally a new kid in town who went over the slide and never came back up.
Another kid catapulted off the slide and landed with a big splash. The people on the edge watched closely, almost judging it like a competition. Next, a couple sat down together with the woman in front and the guy behind her. They got a push from a friend and slowly gathered speed, bounding left then right according to the rock and finally flew off the edge, separating just in time for a clear landing. The guy tried a mid air chug of Hikka, but failed miserably as the juice and the cup flew in his face. Synchronized laughter came from the observers.
The two girls saw Arryn and Ayala in line for the slide and came up to join them.
“How’s the hand?” Arryn asked.
“Oh I’m fine, that was crazy though wasn’t it.” Kaiya said half looking at Arryn, half looking at Ayala.
“One of these days you’ll have to tell us why the hell you touched it.” Ayala chided.
“Yeah, I honestly have no idea. I don’t remember it very clearly, it’s a little fuzzy, you know?” Kaiya deflected.
“Well, I’m glad you’re alright, today is not a good day to be unconscious.” Arryn laughed, and so did Ayala.
Kaiya came to the front of the line and started running full speed ahead. She jumped head first down the arching hill and landed softly on her stomach, picking up even more speed. She catapulted off the ledge and brought her head down. She flipped once, then again, and slowed her tumbling by opening up her body and arching her back. She landed perfectly on her feet in the water. Shim took it as a challenge. She bolted just like Kaiya, but jumped off the cliff and landed on her back. When she was ejected, she brought her legs up back over her head and started spinning, once, twice, three times. She unfolded awkwardly. Her hands flew in circles, and landed in the water like she was about to sit in a chair. It was almost a backflop. Kaiya watched as she climbed out of the water and chuckled at Shim who tried to one-up her. It was always this way between them.
For a moment, the cold that had begun to penetrate their usual tropical temperatures lifted. The wind was warm again. Even the water seemed to have jumped a degree or two. Shim joined Kaiya on the ladder back up to the top when a loud horn blew. It was time for the ceremony.