Sea Jade — Chapter 16
“Fergus, was that the same dagger Will found on the mountain?”
Exhausted though she was, Khalen was not about to have anything important kept from her. That is why she had insisted on coming after all.
“Na, luv. Not the same.” The worry lines on Fergus’ bald head piled one on top the other. “The strange thing is, he canna find the one he brought from the mountain. He seems ta have lost it somewhere. It is a great puzzlement to him.” Absently he took a biscuit from the plate in front of Khalen and bit off a corner, chewing distractedly, more from habit than hunger. “There is anuther as well.”
He waited for Khalen’s reaction fearing she would become agitated again, but she only watched him, quietly waiting for him to go on, elbow propped on the table, head resting on her hand.
“Grace found anuthern in her garden today and hid it in her tool shed. Like as not they be out there lookin’ for it right now.”
“Another one?” she repeated… But in that moment the weariness overtook her, and Khalen realized she didn’t care how many of the bloody things there were. She folded her arms on the table and laid her head atop them. Within moments she was sound asleep. Fergus stuffed the last of the biscuit in his mouth crunching noisily. He pulled Khalen’s cloak up from where it hung over the back of the chair, draping it softly around her shoulders.
As Grace and Will walked back through the workroom, Will took the dagger from the table. He thought it best to not let it out of his sight for the moment. He had been trying to remember the last time he had known for sure the other one was in his boot, but could not recall checking it after leaving the corral at the inn that morning. He was relieved to see that Khalen had drifted off to sleep. Pausing by her chair, he brushed a blonde curl from her forehead and tucked it behind her ear.
Grace, touched by the tender display, said, “Why do we not make her comfortable?” She nodded toward her bed chamber.
Carefully so as not to waken her, Will gathered Khalen up from the chair and followed Grace into the room. He laid her down gently and together they removed her dusty leather boots. Then taking a quilt from the end of the bed, Grace pulled it over her. “It might be spring,” she whispered, “but the nights are still plenty cold!” She nudged Will toward the door. “I will be out in a moment,” she said, standing aside so he could step out of the room. It is time, she thought, pondering the kindness of the Tracker. I can trust him. She pushed the door closed enough to reach her hiding place in the wall. Removing the loose board, she retrieved the chest wrapped in the blanket, then quietly pulled the door shut behind her as she returned to the kitchen.
Outside the window a black shape shivered and made its way around to the other side of the cottage.
Will had taken a seat at the table and poured himself a cup of tea, sipping, and grimacing at the tangy taste. Tea was not his favorite drink. Right now he wished he had a tankard of Khalen’s best ale.
“The other knife, Fergus… The one used to kill Khalen’s father, what happened to it?”
“Odd you should ask.” Fergus ran the palm of his hand over his exposed head and scratched the back of his neck. “It ‘appens it came up missin’ jes after the constabulary gathered up all the evidence from the Cap’n’ Finn’s quarters. Never did find the bloody thing. Figured someone in the know got greedy for the gold and gemstones and made off with it. Why’d ya want ta know?”
Will pondered the dagger lying on the table. He patted his boot for the tenth time and shook his head. “I just do not see how I could have lost that knife. With the other one Grace found missing as well, I am beginning to wonder if there really is more than one of the things. And if there is not, how can it be the same one?” He took another sip of the cooling tea, grimaced disgustedly, then pushed the cup away.
Grace noticed and chuckled as she crossed the room. “I have some Arabica coffee if that would be more to your liking. It is quite strong.”
Fergus perked up. “Aye! That would be much appreciated,” he answered for the pair of them, glad to be rid of the insipid tea.
“I’ll make some straight away,” she said, settling the covered chest on the table next to the dagger.
One of Fergus’ red, bushy eyebrows raised in question at the parcel. As Grace tended the coffee she repeated what she had told Will about finding the dagger.
Seated at last with cups of the steamy, robust brew, Grace unwrapped the chest and lifted the lid. Fergus whistled in appreciation of the curious ornament.
Will pointed to the orb. “May I?” At Grace’s nod he removed it from the chest. “It is solid gold, very heavy. And look at the stones. They are the same as those on the dagger.” He held it closer to the candlestick on the table to see it better. “The runes are the same also.” He laid the orb down next to the dagger. “It is unfortunate we none of us can read them. I have seen many languages in my travels, but none resembling this.”
“I, too,” said Grace. “I am adept in many alphabets; and though some I know are similar, this one is foreign to me as well.” She was quiet for a moment trying to decide how much of her past to reveal to these men. She cleared her throat. “There is someone I know who could possibly read them. His name is Sylvanus. He is a mage. Unfortunately he lives several days journey from here.”
Will was perplexed. “A mage? I thought there were none left on the mainland, that they had all been captured and killed. How do you know him?”
Grace sat quietly. It had been years since she had breathed the name of her homeland. So many old wounds. Did she really want to recall them? But something in Will’s eyes told her with him she had nothing to regret, nothing to fear. “I . . . we are both from Celitia.”
“The forgotten island!” Fergus was mystified. “Bu’ that island was destroyed near on fifty years ago. How can you have been there?”
Will waited for Grace to go on. She took a breath and let it out again. It was all so long ago.
“I was only a child when the island blew itself apart. Sylvanus was head of the mages’ council. He had read the signs of the mountain correctly and tried to warn our people, but the mountain had coughed its huge black billows for years without incident. Sadly, they did not believe him.”
Grace looked down at her hands folded neatly in her lap, not wanting the men to see the tears come unbidden to her eyes. The loss of her family, of her people, and the later shunning of the main-landers for who and what she was remained as fresh in her mind as if it had all happened yesterday.
“My mother was a servant in the home of Sylvanus. When the earth began to quiver and spew its black and gray death across the shores of the island, she refused to leave. Like the others she did not believe the god of the mountain would hurt us. She thought to make our way to the caves outside of Camareen. We never left the villa. A pumice stone the size of this table fell through the roof and she was killed. Sylvanus found me next to her covered in ash and pulled me from the rubble. He carried me to a small ship he had readied in the outer harbor. That is how I came to the mainland.”
Intrigued, the men remained silent.
“Sylvanus raised me. He schooled me in the healing arts. Educated me. Taught me how to survive on my own in the wild. I was with him for a dozen years. They were hard years. We were greatly feared on the coast. The destruction of the mountain had reigned down calamity on this land as well. Animals and people died. Crops failed for years. We were from Celitia, so we were blamed. Eventually we moved inland and sought privacy and namelessness. And then I met Nathaniel.” She smiled. “But that is a story for another day.
“I have not seen Sylvanus in many, many years. But he would have gotten word to me had he fallen ill. I can only assume he is still in the home we made together with the other few who came from Celitia aboard our ship. I had already considered taking the orb to him to read the runes. Something has been unleashed since I opened the box a few weeks ago. I fear now for Anya’s life.
“And there is also this,” Grace said, peeling back the red velvet lining and pulling out the locket. “The runes are on this locket as well.”
Will took the locket from her and read the name on the front. “Linee?”
“Yes. I’ve always wondered if it was Anya’s mother’s name.”
Will turned the locket over.
“A sea dragon!” Fergus cried with a start.
Will and Grace looked at him in surprise.
“Do you know of it then?” Grace asked.
“Oh, aye. That there be the symbol of the northern-most people. They say the dragons be what churn the waters in the sea when it is rough and stormy. We were much welcomed there on the trade route, but as I remember something amiss happened and we never went back there after that.”
“When was that, Fergus?” Will wondered if there might be a connection.
“Oh, near as I can recall is was likely eighteen years ago.”
“The same year we found Anya.” Grace was shaken.
Will opened the locket, but the runes inside were as foreign to him as the rest. He handed it back to Grace.
“You say that Anya knows nothing of this?”
“No. Nathaniel and I never intended to tell her. As far as she knows she is our daughter. Besides, what would we have presented her with but a mystery that might have caused her pain and confusion? Perhaps you will think we were being selfish…”
Will laid his hand over hers. He could see the uncertainty in her eyes. “I think you were loving her the best way her family could. The only family she would never know.”
Grace’s smiled sadly and gently pulled her hand away. She replaced the locket in the chest and smoothed the velvet over it, then gazed most earnestly at Will. “But what have I brought on her head by keeping these things?”
“That remains to be seen,” he answered.
Fergus, who had been studying the orb, now noticed the notch on the bottom of it. Or is that the top of it? he wondered. “What’s this ‘ere, then,” he said picking it up and holding it nearer the candle flame. “Looks a bit like sumthin’s ‘spose to be stickin’ in ‘ere.” And he stuck his finger in the hole.
The wind arose so suddenly it took their breath away. Every candle in the room sputtered out. Only the fire set back in the hearth continued to burn. Will grabbed Grace’s wrist and pulled her upright as she nearly toppled over on her chair.
Fergus dropped the orb into the box and backed away from the table dodging tea cups as he did so. “God have mercy,” he cried, making the sign of protection.
And then, as if it were nothing at all, the heavy door burst open and slammed against the wall. Had they been able, they would have seen the two dark shadows slither through the door toward the table. The faceless beings settled on each end trailing a biting chill as they came.
Picture Credit: mapio.net