• I. L. Tanis

Don't Look Back

For this week, inspiration for a short story hit my mind and it was itching my mind, so to speak; I couldn't focus on writing much else, so here we are with a new story!


Speaking to another blogger and writer, I was suggested that I write a series of short stories on my world, that tie into my books. So, I have taken that idea, and therefore have made a new page! These stories will all tie into the world of my books, somewhere along the timeline I've developed, but they have been written so that they will (hopefully) be enjoyed when read independently, just as much as in context with the book.


So, without further ado, I present you with the first of what will hopefully be a series.



 

Don't Look Back




Summer of 1710, Eastern Coast of Petran, 1 year prior to Fire War



Hykla’s eyes glanced back down the subterranean highway, her body tense as she held her prize. As moments passed, she relaxed; no one had seen her.


She quickly turned and clambered up the massive stalactite and then to the little cave she’d carved out. It was damp, but she didn’t mind. After all, she was a Lemdynen. They practically lived in water.


Even so, they didn’t usually live in holes with no light; they made those shiny white lamps, but they’d find her if she used one, and she would have to leave again. Find somewhere new, hurt her fingers carving a new place to live.


She had nowhere else to go. She was a Black Lemdynen, a shame to her people, and the nightmare of everyone else. She looked at her little cave, full of her things; she had collected much over her young life; everything she could wish for.


Except for one thing.


Family.


Oh, the sweetness of that word! And the pain it caused as it eluded her. It was like cruel laughter, like the people who shoved her away.


As she pulled out her prize to look at it, she smiled excitedly. She’d finally gotten it! She hadn't had to steal it. It had been thrown away, but she had it now.


She pulled it out, and it glinted a little in the light from the entrance, but she couldn’t make out anything on it. Her smile faded as tears glistened.


It was dull, like everything else in her life. It had been so smooth and beautiful back in the lighted rooms. Her anticipation faded along with any happiness she’d kept alive in the dank place.


A palace, they called it.


A home.


Liars, all of them were liars.


"Dolomir, " she whispered, as she had every night, "help me find a family." She bit back tears, and curled up in a ball, sobbing and letting the little mirror drop to the damp stone. It hit the cold stone and broke into pieces.


Just like her heart.


When she next woke, there was no sound. It must be daytime. Time for her to get food. She rubbed her eyes and then looked down at her mirror. It was shattered now. She couldn’t use it. As she picked up the biggest piece, it caught a little light, and she saw a red eye. Was it hers?


She peered closer, but then it was gone, the light fading. She dropped it and then scrambled out of the little cave, climbing down the massive rock formation like a cat. She looked up at the old entrance; in all her sixteen years of living, she’d never dared to go outside before… that was old, and no one used it. Legends told that it was the way they’d widened to get inside, and they had made a new way now, closer to the ground.


She stood undecided in the shadows, then stamped her bare foot and in one burst of speed, made it to the stairs. She looked up and swallowed hard. She would be in so much trouble if they saw her…


She shook her head and started up the stairs as fast as she could, making it to the entrance fairly quickly.


The bright light was luring her, but at the same time, it was frightening. When she saw it was not guarded as she’d always feared it was, she put one foot out, then the other. The warmth that hit her made her shiver and gave her goosebumps. Sunlight.


As she stepped out, she squinted, her eyes burning. She had been in the dark for so long it was painful to be in this light. As her eyes adjusted, she saw a big, blue mass attacking the white sand.


She moved forward, and her mouth dropped open. The Maro Dioar. But it wasn’t just a Sea of Tears, it was beautiful.


The power it held entranced Hykla. It was so strong and brave. She wished she could be in it, be part of it… But she was Hykla, outcast. Even her name was hurtful.


She stared at the water, repeatedly flexing her thin white fingers. Go, or stay? At that moment the Eastern sea wind caressed her tangled hair, playing with the rogue braid that was by her ear. The fresh air seemed to revive something in her that had been close to dead. Every fiber of her being told her to go.


Her feet began to move and then she was there, staring down at the water. She was unsure if she even wanted to touch it. What if Dolomir didn't want her to? What if she wasn't worthy? If she was a Lemdynen, then why did everyone tell her she was trash and not worthy to be called a human?


She withdrew, tears stinging her eyes. She stared longingly at the beautiful silky waves but then turned to go back.


There stood a very tall man, and Hykla fell down in shock. She'd not heard him coming. He was huge, towering above the tallest man to ever walk Visaya. His eyes were shockingly bright, and there was a hardness that would chill to the bone, but that's not what Hykla saw; she saw the pain in his eyes and she wanted to fix it. She saw the gentleness and she longed for it. She saw something that she'd never experienced before and she wanted it. It was care and love, but she had no way to describe those things.


The tall man was dressed in sea blue and silver, his white-gold hair under a crown of twisted silver-looking shells and shapes holding it together that looked like small waves, but what it was made of, no mortal knows. He stepped forward and then knelt down, offering her his huge, worn hand.


Hykla’s eyes widened, then she wanted to scoot away. She found she could, so she did, but she didn't get far. She was too surprised.


The man remained on one knee as if waiting.


Finally, she swallowed hard, and spoke, averting her eyes. "Who are you?"


"I am Lemdyn."


Hykla gasped and she really did start to move. She ran away a few feet then sat down again with a thump, as the realization hit her. She was talking to a Nayo, servant of Dolomir! Lemdyn? He was the Lord of the Sea!


She burst into tears and nodded, sitting there sobbing in the sand. "I'm just Hykla." She dug her fists into her eyes, and tried to stop, but she couldn't. Here was another person to mock her. It always happened when she told them her name. They pretended to be nice, then they turned on her.


"Just?" The deep voice said, no spite in his voice.


She nodded. "Just Hykla."


No answer.


She cried harder and hugged her thin knees. "Just Hykla." She whispered hoarsely.


"Come then, Hykla."


She jerked with surprise and looked up. Lemdyn stood there, his hand out again. She hesitated; what might happen if she didn't take it? If she made him angry she would die anyway. She timidly took the big hand and a tingle of energy shot through her. Then the big man led her to the water again and walked in so it was just covering his feet.


Hykla hesitated, then followed.


The water sent shocks of excitement through her, but at the same time, she was the same. She hadn't changed. She looked down and saw black hair and ruby red eyes looking at her.


Those eyes were hers. She knew that now. Now they filled with tears and one dropped into the water, lost without notice.


"Hykla, what do you see?"


The girl stared despondently at the water. "Me."


"And who are you?" He asked patiently.


"I'm Hykla."


"Who is that?"


"Me. Outcast."


"Hykla, look at me."


She did and she saw tears in those noble eyes. "You are not worthless. Just because no one sees a diamond, does not mean it is not there. They call you Hykla, but they don't know you. They're too blinded by pride to accept you. Your eyes are ruby, not blood. You're not a demon, you're a child of Dolomir."


Hykla wondered where this was leading and what it had to do with her, but remained silent.


"You have been hurt badly."


Hykla shrugged.


"Come with me. I have something to show you."


She followed Lemdyn to a little pool, where she could see nothing.


Then as Lemdyn touched the water with his hand, it became like a mirror, but also a living painting, moving, showing the evil and the oppression of the Lemdynen to those they considered inferior "The Lemdynen are leaving the ways of Dolomir. They will suffer because of it, but there are some who still hold to Him. I want you to find them for me."


If it had been anyone else, Hykla would have never believed them. It was just a joke. She was just a joke, a mess-up of nature.


But she knew she could believe him, so she nodded. It wasn't as if she could blatantly tell him no. Well, she could, but she didn't want to.


"There are those who will stand with you."


Hykla’s bitterness began to leak out. "Will they?"


"Yes. Because they will realize you are one of them. You are no different inside than anyone else."


Hykla looked down and saw that her face was visible again, but her eyes were now dark. She almost gasped.


"If you become bitter, your eyes will be black, just as any Lemdynen under darkness would be. If you continue to follow Dolomir you will be a new beauty. What you see is not the real you. Trust me."


She stared at the water for a long moment.


Trust was a big word.


Could she do it?


She listened to the rush of the sea and then relaxed. Yes. Yes, she could. "Where?"


She looked up, and Lemdyn's eyes showed the love she wanted, the love of a father, kind, selfless, strong. "You must go down the road. Do not look back. Do not stop. Do not listen to any who mock you."


"I’ll do it."


"They may hurt you."


Hykla’s eyes widened. "Why?" Tears threatened again.


"In life, you must walk forward before you can find what it is you need. If you want people to find you, you must stop hiding. It will be painful, but it will be worth it. I need you to do this. This way, it is a choice; if I went and asked, they would lie and all act as though they truly do follow My Lord."


Hykla stared in disbelief, but it melted away to anxious impatience. If Dolomir wanted her to do it, then she would do it. She bowed on her knees, but Lemdyn lifted her to her feet, putting his hand on her shoulder, "You are loved, Hykla. Don't let others' blindness blind you from right."


She nodded, fear welling up like writhing snakes. Then she turned and walked toward the entrance again, heart thumping.


She didn't know how she found herself walking down the cavernous mouth of a highway, but there she was. She stared ahead, shoving down fear. You are loved. She told herself.


She passed the food and fish market. Then the houses of the lowest ranking.


She heard a surprised silence, but no one lashed out against her. She thought she heard someone following, but she didn't look back. Dolomir wanted her to look forward.


A long stretch of road was now to be walked; the nobility lived very far from the poor. This is where Hykla almost ran. Intense anxiety pressed against her lungs, but she forced it out. "Lemdyn says so, which means Dolomir says so."


She walked on, fists balled up, her stride determined. She had nothing to lose.


People were busy here, crossing the road to speak with others and so when they saw her, they stopped dead in their tracks.


"What is that?" Someone shrieked.


She knew she was dressed like the lowest peasant. She had nothing else to wear.

Her heart wrenched and she almost stopped. Almost home. Something inside her whispered.


Home.


She kept going, and even though her legs shook, she held her pace, her loose hair hiding her dirty face.


"Who’s child is that? They should be hung!" Someone muttered.


This was going to be a long walk. It would take her hours to get to the other end of the city.


"Who’s that, mommy?" A child asked.


"Go inside." The mother said.


"She's a black Lemdynen." Someone exclaimed.


"Look at her hair!"


"Does she have red eyes?"


"Don't touch her! She's cursed!"


She walked on, her heart thumping, but slowly, the fear faded. She let go of her shame and pulled her hair back from her face.


She was loved by the Master of all Life. Why should she care what these people thought?


Her head high, back straight, she kept going.


"Go home!" Someone shouted above the loud rumble of the crowded city echoes.


She halted, and smiled as she quietly said, "I am."


A young man stood silently ahead of her, watching her, but she didn't care. He could laugh if he wanted to.


More shouts erupted as she walked on. Someone threw a rock and it hit her shoulder. The pain was not much, but it did scare her; she was going down the middle of the biggest Lemdynen city in all of Visaya. People came closer now, but they were threatening, not watching.


Something hit her head but she bowed it and walked on.


She didn't look left or right, she kept on and the smile on her face was joy, not just happiness. A few hours ago she had doubted whether Dolomir cared for her. Now she knew, and nothing else mattered.


"Get out of here!" Someone yelled as they kicked her leg.


She jolted and almost fell, but someone caught her by the arm and set her on her feet again. "Leave her alone!"


This startled her so much she stopped again.


"What?" The person retorted.


"Leave her alone! Can't you see she doesn't care? She's got something you never will."


"Her?"


"Yes, she has courage. She's a true Lemdynen."


"We are Lemdynen, not dirt like her!"


"When was the last time you even thought about Lemdyn? Or anything beyond your own selfish gut?"


There was no answer, but Hykla couldn't walk yet, she was too confused. Someone was defending her?


"That is what I thought. I have been passive. I'm no better than any of you. I've let myself be blinded by selfishness. Since when did we shun our own people?"


"I didn't know they actually existed!" Someone else said nervously.


"They? You mean people who aren't like you? Yes, yes they do. They just are forced to live in blood and tears because of people like us."


Silence. The whole street was silent now. All eyes were on her.


Then a hand was on her shoulder. "Keep going. I'll go with you."


She swallowed hard and walked on.


More voices rose in mockery and even anger, but she ignored them. Her feet made no sound on the flat stone.


The footsteps behind her remained.


She didn't know if there was more than one, but it frightened her more than anything.


Almost home.


She quickened her pace, eyes focused on the road ahead of her.


"Get out of here!"


More insults were hurled at her, and hard things hit her, but she didn't care about those; it just broke her heart that people were so cruel.


The person behind didn't speak anymore, and she wondered why.


As they continued on, more disgusted looks came from those ahead, and more insults, but they didn't try to hurt her now. The cuts stung and her leg ached, but she kept walking.


It took a painfully long time to get through the city, hours of insults and injury, but eventually, she was there. She collapsed, too tired to care. She'd done it. She'd done what Lemdyn wanted.


By now people had formed a huge crowd and she could hear them shouting and insulting her, and she felt shame swallowing her again. For one moment she'd felt excited, she had thought she could be more than worthless, but now she'd made herself a subject of ridicule.


Tears welled up in her eyes and she put her arm around her head to hide her tears and her face. Don't look back. Don't look back. They'll see.


Then hands lifted her from the ground and to a sitting position, and she was against something. She kept her eyes squeezed shut and tensed her body for being hurt again, but it didn't happen.


When nothing happened, and the yelling died down, she looked up, eyes blurred with tears and dust, but something was blocking her from seeing the crowd. She frowned, confused, and rubbed the tears away.


Hykla looked around: a wall of tall people surrounded her, golden heads held high and hands linked together. She in disbelief, as people looked into her face and some even smiled briefly, nodding their regard to her being there.


Most of them were young people, like her, but there were a few older ones, too, and a couple families with young children. They all turned outward and made a wall directly before the angry crowd.


They said nothing, but they stood united. As the people shouted louder and became angrier, a few people left, but when that happened, the wall came closer.


Hykla just stared with tears running down her face, disbelief muting any questions. She looked up at the person beside her, and saw a young man, but not the strong one who had spoken out before. His face was set as he resolutely sat beside her. He was not particularly tall, in fact, he was very thin, and small for a Lemdynen, and bruised like he'd been in many fights before. But his eyes held fire, and when he looked over at her, she saw they were ruby like hers, even though his hair was golden. He didn't smile, he just nodded and then stared ahead again.


Soon the others sat around Hykla, still silent.


When the last person had sat down, the anger and shouts died away. A huge crowd was before them, but now all was silent. Nothing was said, but the crowd slowly dispersed and was soon gone.


Then as one, the people around her rose, and the boy held out his hand to her. She took it and he lifted her to her feet. She nodded timidly, then looked around. Then she kept walking, and they all followed. She looked back and realized Lemdyn had been right. Of course he had; he was a servant of the Master of Life.


She made her way to the entrance to the beach, and the crowd of people followed without a sound. There stood Lemdyn, tall and ominous, and angry waves seemed to encircle him like impatient wolves waiting to be released.


The people all gasped and then fell silent, bowing.


“You are the Lemdynen. You will be known as the sea people, and you will leave this place for new lands.”


One of the young men rose, shaking with nervousness. “What will happen if we stay?”


“You will destroy yourselves along with these people.”


There was no protest. They all stood as one, a few hundred people in unison.


Hykla stepped forward, “I will go.”


The mighty lord of the seas nodded and gestured north. “Go far north. You will find an island. Be wise, and follow Dolomir. If you do this, you will last long beyond the destruction of those here.” As Lemdyn disappeared within the waves, hundreds of glinting things appeared in the distance, as though glassy ships had been sent to sail the waters. The group approached the shoreline, and soon it was clear what they were.


Diamondbacks!


The people shouted with excite and waited for the creatures to arrive. Then they began to pick out their steeds for the long journey.


The silent boy stayed near Hykla, and she finally turned to him, unsure how to act. “What’s your name?”


He shrugged and didn’t answer.


“I’m Hykla.”


He cocked his head, then frowned, and wrote in the sand with his foot. Hykla blushed; she couldn’t read.


The boy turned and walked over to another of the group, and brought her over. She smiled brightly and then looked down. “He… says your name should not be Hykla. It should be Timanta, it means diamond, or jewel.”


Hykla smiled shyly. “Thank you.”


He nodded, but still didn’t speak; he wrote again in the sand. The girl read it to her; “he says his new name will be Kyotko. Eagle.”


Hykla nodded, “That’s a good name.”


Kyotko shrugged and then nodded his thanks, before walking away. The girl then rejoined her group of people.


Hykla looked around her in silence; she had started this. She had done her job, but now she would begin a journey. A journey of friendship and adventures and perils.


And she would be waiting for it.

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