Chapter 5 - EXILE (in Quest to go Home, book 3 in The Quest Collection)
Lua slipped from rock to rock with an occasional glance back; already he could hear the protests as the guards disturbed the sleeping villagers in their search for him. They would run out of houses soon and their search would widen. Even though it was night, and only the herdsmen and fishermen frequented the beach, likelier locations would run thin and eventually, someone would think to search here too. He had to get beyond the surf before they were anywhere close.
“Lua, where are you, boy?”
It was the unmistakable inner voice of his once dear uncle, the man who had poisoned his mother and father; the man who now held the throne, or at least he would if he could ensure Lua’s death too. With no daughters born to the family, the throne should have rightly fallen to Lua to hold in trust until he married. But now Lua knew the man had only ingratiated himself into the family to this end, and Lua strongly suspected he had no intention to marry.
“Makita Lua, you answer me. I know you can hear me.”
Lua schooled his mind to silence and waded out into the surf until the water was deep enough to dive under. The change flowed over him like the sweet salt sea and he was off swimming quickly. He didn’t dare cast about for predators lest the guards, and most importantly, his uncle, hear as well. Instead, he was forced to rely on his sharp ears and eyes, but the night was very dark away from the street lamps of the city.
The danger of him not seeing the approach of danger was very real. The faint phosphoresce caused by the disturbance wasn’t much warning. With that thought in mind, he tried extra hard to keep the glow his own movements caused to a minimum.
To that end, he swam beneath surface as long as he could hold his breath, coming to a full halt and drifting to the surface carefully and only long enough for a breath or two and a quick glance around.
By dawn, he was exhausted, but he was also out of sight of land. All he could see was the faint whiff of smoke from the volcano that was the center of their islands.
After drifting for a couple hours to rest, and for no better reason than that it was the direction he was already heading, coupled with the desire to put as much distance as possible between himself and his uncle, Lua headed into the morning sun once again.
When days stretched into weeks, Lua began to despair starting out on this journey, not that he had much choice. He was well known and going to any of the closer islands would only have delayed the inevitable. Not that he was suffering from hunger, but he longed for a stretch of land; he felt so small and vulnerable out in the middle of this vast ocean.
Now that he was so far from home, he was confident any thoughts of his would be obscured by other mental noises and concerns, so, though he kept his search to a minimum range, he was confident he could avoid any predator, but that didn’t help how small he felt. Those he touched were huge, bigger than anything he’d ever heard of even in children’s stories told to encourage good behavior of the rowdiest of boys.
The only thing that interrupted his daily grind of traveling and hunting was the occasional storm, some worse than others. Even surfing the waves soon lost the thrill of fun, though he did it as often as possible in the interest of expediency. Finally, just has he was beginning to wonder if he would ever see land, a storm churned the water into surf and he was washed onto, and nearly completely over, a tiny island.
He clung to the surface through the night. When the rising sun showed him his discovery, he started to laugh. With tears running down his face, he stood turning a full circle. He knew the island was small, but he expected something just a mite bigger. As it was, one or two steps in any given direction and he was in the water once again. He stayed there until the next morning just because if felt good to be on solid ground for a change, but he couldn’t afford to stay any longer.
Over the next blur of days, there was a new interruption to what had become his daily grind of moving east, staying out of the reach of any sharks or whales in the area, and finding enough food to stay alive, now there was the occasional surf-washed island to test his legs on. It felt good to sleep on a solid surface once in a while. He even found a few that required walking some hours in order to reach the eastern-most shore. His choice of direction had long since become routine and he kept moving only because staying put was pointless, they were only smooth spots of beach scrubbed clean by every storm that passes and baked in the sun that followed.
One day it occurred to him that the seasons might be changing. He had long since lost count of how long he’d been traveling; it had all become a blur; if the storms lasted more than a few hours, it was only possible to count the passage of days by whether he could see the next wave coming or not. It seemed that the storms were becoming more frequent and were perhaps more vicious, it was hard to tell being merely a piece of flotsam, and it might be merely that the elements were wearing him down. He did find a real rock protruding up from one of the islands; the scraped bruise all down his side reminded him of that.
After being able to count the waves coming for three days, the sounds changed drastically, but it was now pitch black and there was no way to know which direction was safe, not that he had the strength to fight clear. His only choice was to keep trying, and pray to the Mother that she see fit to preserve his life. She had after all, kept him alive this long. Surely it wasn’t merely to dash him against the rocks of this foreign shore.
He thought of his mother in her last moments as she clawed at her throat, her eyes wide and black, the corners of her mouth turning blue as she struggled to take just one more breath, even as the rest of her body crumbled. Just past her, his father lay sprawled on the floor, already dead, his face horrifyingly dark and something darker drooling from the corner of his mouth. It was in that moment he caught the stray thought of glee coming from his uncle, an unmistakable touch that was felt both ways. In that moment he saw his own, very similar, death. He was supposed to be suffering the same fate only Lua had been out, missing supper in the company of an accommodating girl.
Just as the morning began to make the waves discernible, the cliff loomed out of the last wave. Desperately, Lua dove through the wave he was riding, hoping to put as much distance and water between himself and those unforgiving rocks.
He wasn’t entirely successful. He didn’t fail entirely either; surely this much pain did not exist in the Mother’s comforting arms. Now if only he could keep his face in the air enough to keep from drowning after all.
This isn't long enough to satisfy me but I can't think of anything to add. Any suggestions would be most welcome.