Saturday, June 25, 2016

Building My Empire

This particular story takes place of the Forty Isle, where the Gwion live. I've always wanted to write a pirate story. The story below takes place in a larger story, and it is another character study as I work to develop the main character Minali who I find to be an interesting character. 

"Oh to be at sea now that summer's arrived," a lazy male voice drawled. "Captain?" Qillaq's voice turned slightly petulant at the end of the n.
"Aye, Captain," one of the other crew members, a man in his thirties with short-cropped blue hair. For some strange reason, he had the sobriquet, Red. "The sea be calling." He cocked his hand to his ear. "Can't you hear the lonesomeness, Captain? Surely, your heart isn't stone."
The captain turned, crossed her arms and smirked. "When we were out at sea, you wanted land."
"We wanted booze," Qillaq corrected. "And better food."
"I heard that," Hisham, the ship's chef said from his spot by the barbeque pit. He turned and pointed a ladle at the sniper. "You'll be happy for my food once out at sea."
"I'm always happy for your food because it's all we have." Qillaq drew in a long breath. "And that smells divine."
Minali, as the captain was called, shook her head. "Very well." She tossed a rolled map onto the table, and it unrolled to reveal the location therein. "This is our next place."
The lead members of her crew, eight in total, gathered around the table. Of the nine members, only two were female - the captain and the doctor - who happened to be friends from childhood. Now the doctor looked up, a mixture of fear and excitement glazing her brown eyes. "That's a big catch, Minali."
"Dayo," Qillaq muttered, "of course it's a big catch. Our captain doesn't go after small fry."
"One of the Nine Lords of the Sea, though," Red said. He whistled.
"I figured she would go after the biggest one," Qillaq surmised, lighting his cigarette. He blew out the first puff of smoke. "Still, going after are current lord is important enough." He looked to his captain. "Not that you ever bowed your head to him."
"No need," Minali admitted. "First, though, we have to take out a few members, and this is how we plan about it."
Two hours later, they broke to gather the needed supplies. A few items only the captain could find, and to that end, she went to one of the best scavengers in the city. "Minali," Toad croaked. He had been in a fight as a young man, and lost his melodic voice. He could, however, still talk. "What do you need?"
"I need this placed onto an armband," she said, handing him a dull looking stone. "It's supposed to bring be good luck, but I can't wear it around my neck or on my wrist."
Toad studied the jewel. "I can have it ready in an hour if you wait."
Minali nodded her head once and went to sit in the coffee shop Toad had attached to the jewelry business. Technically, the coffee shop brought in the money providing him the needed revenue to do his dream of being a jeweler, but those who knew him said the coffee shop was the side business.
Truth was, Toad was a horrible jewelry designer, but to adjust, fix and repair, there was none better.
A man entered the coffee shop. He wore blue trousers, a gray shirt and a white coat. Only the Navy dressed that way in this weather. Turning her body away from the door, Minali waited. It would be her luck to run into a navy captain when she was about ready to leave to take on the Nine Lords of the Sea. There was no love lost between the Navy and the Lords. All in all, the two seemed bent on antagonizing each other to death, but if there was anyone who could stop the Nine Lords, the Navy thought itself quite capable.
"Hello. Don't see too many beauties in this part of town," the navy captain greeted.
Minali sipped her coffee.
The captain sat down. "The name's Ronen. You?"
Minali set the coffee mug on her table and smiled. "Nilami."
"That's an unusual name."
"I thought so. Many people would remember it."
Ronen leaned forward. "Now, Ronen's not so common around here. Me, I like my name. It makes sense. It's good, strong, and honest. Like me." He paused, cocking his head. "I suppose you like good, strong, honest men?"
"If he's in the Navy or not."
Preening, Ronen leaned to show off his captain's star. "I happen to be in the Navy."
"Really?" Minali teased. "Are you new here?"
"Just arrived about a month ago."
"What are you doing?"
"I was assigned The Charger."
"That's a good ship; a bit slow."
"Fastest ship in the world. No one can match her."
"Him? Ships are always female."
"I've always found men are faster than women." She shrugged. "The only time a man wants a fast woman is when he wants her naked."
Ronen laughed. "Good point."
Minali rolled her eyes and reached for her coffee.
"Are you fast?"
"Not in the least."
"Suppose you're here for a new start," Ronen continued, unfazed by her comment. "Most people are. You a teacher? No," he self-corrected. "You strike me as a shop-keeper." He nodded around them. "Your place?"
Ronen nodded. "Looks like a good place to work."
"I don't work here. I'm working on other things."
"Probably marriage ... A beautiful woman like you. Right? So single or taken?"
"You are a fast one.” She sipped her coffee then leaned forward. “What does it have to do if I'm single or taken?"
Ronen mirrored her position. "Depends if I should visit the coffee shop."
"You like the coffee?"
"Then visit."
"But, if you're here it makes it more beautiful. What do you do?"
"This and that."
At that moment, Toad entered. "Here's your band," he greeted after a passing glance at Ronen. "Enjoying your coffee, Captain?"
"I am. Thank you." Ronen ignored Toad and turned to Minali. "So, you never answered my question," the captain pressed. "Single or taken."
Toad coughed as Minali rose. "Neither," Minali explained, reaching into her pocket to pay Toad. "I'm building my empire."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Serenity of Deep Waters

I know several have been waiting for the next part of Azure Maris' to be published, but here's a story from her world. It takes place during the time she was in America and involves her mother's niece. 

"Well, that's a bit of a bother, isn't it?"
The mermaid came to a full stop and looked around the empty expanse of ocean. For as far as she could see, there was little more than barren seascape with a few rocks. She shook her head and reached into her bag to find the map her cousin had left. It had been six months since Azure Maris, the eldest daughter of the king, had disappeared from the mer kingdom of Deep Waters. Most assumed she had died, but her brothers, Brun and Yo'ash insisted she remained alive.
Serenity, niece to the queen of Deep Waters, tended to agree with her intelligent howbeit eccentric elder cousins.
"By one little month," she muttered to herself. "That's all they have on me, but they make it seem as though it's an entire year." She yanked open the map and looked at the notes Azure had written. Always writing in her journal, sketching in a book, or generally observing the world around her, Azure knew many things including some of the best places to watch meteor showers.
The fact that she gave Serenity detailed descriptions to the location bothered neither woman. After all, it was easy to become disoriented in the open waters.
"The fact that I can become disoriented in the city makes no never mind," Serenity assured herself as she stuffed her map back into the bag. She had two - one carried her food, and the other items for the trip such as a first aid kit and the map.
"It isn't often we see pink-haired mermaids wandering around," a merman spoke from above.
Brun and Yo'ash, Serenity's cousins, floated down. "What are you doing out here?"
Serenity pulled her shoulders back and swam up a little to sneer at the brothers, who were more annoying of late since their remaining triplet, Azure was missing. She had done more to keep her brothers civil than anyone realized.
"Where are you going?"
"Out for a swim."
The brothers looked at each other and swam up to look her in the eyes. "You got lost."
"I did not."
"Then where are you?"
"In the ocean."
"On Earth."
"That's not specific."
"It is if we consider that there might be other planets with lifeforms out there. I'd say it's rather specific. In regards to where on the Earth I am, we are currently in the mer kingdom of Deep Waters, unless you two have forgotten that."
"Highly unlikely," Brun answered. "We came out here to make certain you found wherever it was you're going."
"I was on my way back."
"Were you now?" Yo'ash did not seem convinced.
"I was. Now, you can go on your own way, and I'm going to head home."
Yo'ash twisted to the side to block her. "And how do you go home?"
"The same way I arrived here."
"Which is?"
"None of your business."
"She's lost," Yo'ash informed Brun.
"Indeed," Brun agreed.
"Am not."
The brothers lifted their eyebrows in unison. "And just where are you going?"
"Wherever I wish to go," Serenity answered. "You seem to imply that I'm lost because I cannot tell you precisely where I am, but that isn't the case. I know generally where I am, and therefore I am not lost."
"Confused is lost."
"No, it isn't," Serenity argued.
"If you are confused, you don't know where you are."
"I know where I am; I'm here."
"Ah, but where is here?" Brun pressed. "Are you going to make it back to Deep Waters, or should we direct you?"
"Just because I cannot tell you the exact path I need to take ..." 
"She admitted it," Yo'ash muttered. "How do you do that?"
"Talent," Brun answered, shifting his gaze to his brother. "I have to deal with you."
Serenity crossed her arms. "Listen, I know you two are quite bothered about Azure being missing, but I don't need babysitters any more than your sister does."
"And look where it got her," Yo'ash retorted.
"Where did it get her? We don't know. She could be living the good life in some palace."
"If she was among allies, we would have heard."
"Maybe she got swept up in a place where mermaids are still myth." Serenity leaned forward to glare at Brun. "Did you ever consider that?"
"All possibilities have been considered," Brun answered. "Where Azure is, doesn't negate the fact you are notorious for getting lost."
"I am not notoriously lost. I randomly find new paths."
At that the men flung their arms up in universal sign of frustration. "Fine," Yo'ash decided. "Remain here not lost, and get yourself home."
Serenity waved as her cousins swam off. Best to keep them in some sight, though, she decided as she swam after them. At any rate ... until she recognized something. "After all, I may not bring serenity to those around me, but I can find myself wherever I am." She smiled. "Whoever said I was lost?"

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Princess and the Weaver

This story comes from the world of the Gwion, but takes place nearly a millennium before The Water Mage of the Mageless Isle. This time, you meet one of the Gwion. I like taking some of the stereotypes and turning them around. Who needs a prince when you have these two resourceful girls? 

"You know, in stories, a princess in the tower sings in the tower while she waits until the prince comes along to rescue her," Greye merc Gwion observed from the loom in the corner. The hollow pop of fabric repeated at regular intervals as Greye wove.

"I'm tired of waiting for a prince to show up," Putri retorted, sitting in the windowsill. She was the eldest of four children born to the King of Caergwlân. While out riding with Greye one late spring day, the girls had been captured.

Now, nearly three months later, Putri swung her left leg back and forth, not brushing the plush carpet which covered most of the tower room the girls had claimed as their bedroom. The tower wasn't the largest tower either girl had ever been inside, but stuck out in the middle of the countryside just outside the border of Caergwlân, their own kingdom, the tower most likely had served as a fire watch. Surely, with only three floors and nary another building in sight, it seemed only temporary.

Every morning, food was brought to them and every evening, more food was brought, but they were never able to see whoever brought it. No matter how long they watched or where they were, the delivery was unseen.

"It's been a season already, and I think I see snow on those clouds." Putri drew her legs up to her chest. "It's getting colder.”

"We're too far south for snow this early in autumn," Greye answered.

Putri looked at the back of her best friend. Greye had come to be the princess’ companion some ten years ago when they were both six. The queen had died, and the king wanted another girl to help his daughter.

Blowing out her breath, Putri groused, "Boring, Greye, utterly boring. Can't you come up with something interesting?" She motioned to the loom before Greye. "And why have they placed a loom in here with me? I'm a princess not a Gwion."

"I happen to be a Gwion, not a princess, so I've enjoyed the loom." Greye walked over to the window and leaned outside. "Shame I'm not strong enough with my storyteller magic, or we'd be out in a moment."

Both girls sighed.

It was mid-afternoon and the sun glowed as it began its descent. Leaves remained on the trees, flowers bloomed, and the wind dusted across the grass. Rain had faded sometime in early morning, but the road while not muddy remained dustless.

Putri stood in front of the loom looking at the stones Greye wove in the center of the tapestry. Two separate rows framed the stone. One was wood and the other water. Greye, like all the Gwion, were weavers. Their magic was incorporated into their tapestries and clothes. The storyteller magic of which Greye was not as strong, was a beautiful type of magic which could make stories come to life.
"How much longer, you think?"

Greye sighed. "Another week or two. It isn't quite finished, but it will be beautiful not to mention highly practical. The fire, once activated by the magic I do have will heat the stones and the water, providing us with a warm place at night."

Unable to remain still, Putri twisted on her foot and stalked back to the window, and returned to her window seat, inhaling the fresh air. Looking to the south, she shaded her eyes and leaned forward.

A knight walked down the road.

"Hello down there!" Putri scrambled to her feet, and hanging onto the top of the window with her left arm, she leaned out, waving her right arm for the knight’s attention. "Can you help? The door's locked from the outside...."

The knight continued walking.

"Must be deaf," Greye decided, twisting into the space beside Putri. "He's not exactly young. Mature, my brother would say."

"Must all be deaf,” Putri grumbled as she climbed back into the window and hung her leg out the window. Her silken dress rustled with her movements, and had frayed around the edges. Despite their care of the clothing, they had only two sets of clothes for each girl. While the trunks had clothing, it had taken all of their know-how to create the clothes they did have, patchworked though they might have been.

Putri pointed to the road. "That's the fourth one in the past two hours, and none have stopped. It's not like we're that high up here. It must be that we're invisible to them."

"I'm more interested in what's happening down the road that requires four knights."

Staring at her best friend, Putri shook her head. "I never considered that."

"Which is why you're the princess, and I'm not."

"That vaguely sounds like an insult."

Greye smirked. "Not really, more of an observation. You haven't found a map have you?"

"Nothing in the library below; but I'll go take another look." Putri hopped out the window, and stretched backward. "I shall descend into the realm of word while you remain amidst the wool."

Putri went to the second floor to the library. The lowest floor had a kitchen, but nothing worked except the sink which only ran hot water. Both the first floor and the second floor were devoid of openings. Though, technically there was a door which remained locked despite Greye’s attempts, and the chimney which was much too small for either girl. Only the third floor had two windows, and of course they could reach the top, but with nearly a twelve meter drop from the third floor, another two meters from the top, jumping had been impractical.

Still, despite the limitations of escape, there was always the library which was filled with all sort of books from classical literature to modern fiction. It included several languages from the Common Fae tongue to that of the Dark and Light Dae tongues. The language of Caergwlân and two other kingdoms were represented as well, but fiction predominated.

In addition, there were fewer books on science or history and nothing on current culture. A geography map had to be there, but nothing could be found recently. It would take another extensive search since neither girl could utilize a seeking spell. Putri had little magical abilities, and Greye’s magic wasn’t strong enough.

Beginning at the top level of the library, she began to look through each of the books. The light from one of the high windows dimmed by the time Putri had reached the half-way point on the library. She trudged back upstairs. "Supper should arrive soon."

"I know," Greye said from the window.

"See anything?"

Greye shook her head. She, like all the Gwion, had red hair to one extent or another. In her case it was more of a wash than true as her color was that of a roasted chestnut. While paler than Putri, Greye wasn't ghostly, but in the fading light, she was the only one who could sit in the window and look out, invisibly visible.

With her dark black skin and dark eyes, Putri hid in the darkness, but always managed to stand out in the daytime. Most of the people from Caergwlân were as dark as she. The Gwion came from one of the northern kingdoms, originally, and despite extensive intermarriage with the southern folk, remained oddly pale.

Below them, a bell rang, signaling the arrival of their supper. "There's only one door," Greye said, "yet no one arrives."

Putri walked downstairs to collect the tray with the food; tonight's meal was salmon in an herb sauce, whole grained rolls, a sweet potato pie and steamed vegetables.

Back upstairs, Greye remained in the window. "No one, not even the sound of a horse running away." She motioned to the sky. "I don't even hear any wings flapping away, and a dragon isn't exactly easy to hide." She slid out of the window. "What do we have tonight?"


"Smells good."

"Smells divine, but I'll be happy to leave this place." Putri clapped her hands together and thanked the Uncreated One for their food. "Have you wondered why no one's come for us?"

"I would say it's because we're out in the middle of nowhere," Greye reasoned. "They are most likely working with the leadership of the various kingdoms, but if we're between two, or even worse, not captured by a kingdom, we could be here for awhile."

They had picked apart each possible explanation, and returned again to the beginning. No one would come to rescue them. No knights on a quest, no princes seeking wives. No one. It would be up to them to do something, but that fall …

Putri motioned to the tapestry. "I don't think that it will help us fly, will it?"

"No; it won't. I'll have to make you an honorary Gwion." Greye wiggled her fingers. "We'll become blood sisters, and I will have royal blood and you will have Gwion blood. The tapestry will protect you then. We'll sterilize a knife then proceed from there."

Putri held out her hand. "Tonight to give me enough time for it to activate."

"It's not like a spell, you realize."

"Makes me feel better."

That night, they went to sleep with their left hands bound in makeshift bandages.

Two weeks later, with the tapestry finished, they waited until their meal for the morning was brought. After eating their breakfast, they gathered up their supplies and prepared to depart. Theoretically, they would have nearly a day before their captors realized they were gone.

Squeezing into the window sill, the stood facing each other with the tapestry hanging out the window. "It's going to protect us for the most part," Greye warned, "but it isn't going to protect us from hitting hard."

Putri gritted her jaw. "Ready?"

Greye nodded once then they counted to three and jumped.

Wind blew past them, snapping at their clothes. They were on the side of a hill making their three story tower into a five story drop. Even with the tapestry below them, they landed hard, knocking their wind from their bodies, momentarily stunning them.

"Putri?" Greye scrambled to her knees. "Can you breathe?"

Her lungs burned, but she inhaled. "I can," Putri said then coughed. "Hurts."

"Me too," Greye agreed. She shifted to look at the bags they had tied around their waists. The little bags looked small, but carried more than enough supplies for their trip home. They decided the best way to walk would be to the southeast, assuming they were not in Caergwlân. At some point, they would reach either civilization or a defining landmark.

Four days later, they came to a ravine separating their way home. From the top, where they stood, to the bottom was a hundred meters or more, and another fifty meters across.

"There's only one place in the entire island where we could be,” Putri said, backing away slightly
from the terrible height.

"The Grand Ravine separating Colchyster from Grainelyn." Greye sighed, easing closer for a better look. "We're nearly halfway across the island."

Putri pointed across the ravine. "If we head south, we'll come to the plains, but we need to head east towards Caergwlân."

"Even with the tapestry, I wouldn't survive that fall, and neither of us have Gwion made clothing so we're missing even more layers."

"Won't that gossamer wings cloak you wear help?"

Greye shook her head. "If my storyteller magic was stronger, I could fly us across."

Putri put a hand on Greye's shoulder. "No need to beat yourself up over what you can't do, Greye. You'll be stronger in no time."

The sun warmed their backs, reminding them both that it neared nightfall. "We're going to have to find a place to hole up again," Greye reminded Putri. "If we start south, we'll come across some of my people, and they'll help us return home."

"If they aren't working with the kingdom," Putri grumbled, but fell into step behind Greye.

"Ah, that might be, but the Gwion always help the Gwion." Greye stopped.

Putri ran into her, but stopped both from falling into the ravine. "Maybe we should walk farther from the ravine?"

"Look." Greye pointed to the sky where two dragons twisted in the sky, playing. "One of them is a demidrake."

"I didn't think they lived this far south."

"Maybe they're looking for us. The Gwion are friendly with the demidrakes of Drake Isle since we have family there." Greye shielded her eyes judging the path of the dragons.

"Gwion on Drake Isle? Are you related to the riders?"

"No," Greye started walking towards the two dragons. "We're related to the demidrakes."

When they were nearly below the dragons, no other signs of life could be seen save for a small bag. Above them, the demidrake huffed almost in a farewell before it slowly descended to the ground, which, upon reaching, transformed into a human male with bright red hair and hazel eyes. His skin was brownish red and he wore a tunic and a pair of breeches. He wore no shoes, belt or hat, but all those he pulled out from his bag.

"Who are you?" He spoke first, his voice oddly gravelly, but not unpleasantly so.

"My name is Greye merc Gwion."

"Ah, one of those fellows," the demidrake answered, a grin lifting the corner of his mouth. "I'm Brandr Grey of the Southern Demidrakes. What is a Gwion doing this far from home?"

"We were captured a season ago," Greye explained. "We recently rescued ourselves, and are now on the path home. Would you mind giving us a lift to Caergwlân? We can pay you with this tapestry I wove."

Brandr looked at the tapestry. "Fair enough. I was heading that direction anyway, and two more won't be too much trouble. The flight will be good." He stretched his arms over his head. "We can start now unless you two want to sleep some?"

"No, now is fine," Putri demanded.

Within moments, they were in the air, flying towards home. When Brandr tired, they rested, and started their journey after he had had some sleep. It took them only three days to fly the distance between where they were and the edge of capital district in Caergwlân - the furthest into the city which Brandr could fly. He set down in a grassy knoll. "Can you make it from here?" He pointed in the opposite direction. “I have to travel that way for a meeting.”

"Certainly," Greye assured him. "If you are ever in the capital, come by the Gwion Guild Hall. My family is there, and can direct you to where you can find me."

"Fair enough. You're not a member?"

Greye shook her head. "I work elsewhere."

"We must be going," Putri reminded Greye. "Father must be worried by now."

At the border station, soldiers, recognizing the princess and her companion sent word of their arrival while the girls took horses and rode into the city.

Two weeks later, the parties celebrating their return had dimmed, leaving the girls more time to relax. They strolled along one of the palace walls where none bothered them. "Never have I been so happy to be home," Putri sighed as she stretched her arms over her head. "Nor have I been so thankful to see my bed or my brothers."

"Did anyone explain what happened?" Greye asked. Below, the sounds of normalcy reached the room - soldiers changing their shifts, servants yelling for help, children playing and the endless sound of birds, work and laughter.

The noise, which had been deafening six months ago, was now a pleasant lullaby.

"No; I will find out eventually, but I think Father wants it kept a secret because he fears for me." Putri lowered her arms to cross them. "You know, now that I think about it, I wonder why Father hasn't told me anymore. Maybe we should pester him."

Greye turned to look back at Putri. “Maybe we should ignore the problem for now, and ask later when they think we have forgotten.”

"Maybe you're right.” Putri relaxed her arms, but bounced forward a moment then back again. “Still, one cannot allow a good capture to go to waste; how shall we use it?"

"Write up a memoir and sell it."

"Perfect. We'll do that and use the proceeds to go on more adventures."

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Forbidden Knowledge

Another portion of the history research I've been doing. This one takes places in the 1500s. During this time period, the Joeson Dynasty feared anything that went against Confucius teaching to the point that they destroyed any information they discovered. For those who were found to be studying Western thoughts, they punishment could be death.  

Wind whipped down the narrow dirt streets, blowing Kim Jun Min back two steps for every step he took. Finally, he reached the first alleyway on the street and ducked into it, pausing long enough to make certain no one followed him.
In the alleyway, the wind died down enough to walk easier, but above him, it howled like a ravenous wolf intent on catching its prey. Hopefully, it seeks someone else, Jun Min thought, tucking his precious books closer to his body. While his father and other nobles, called the yanban prized all manner of study, some of it was forbidden. Western learning was considered barbaric at best, and evil at worst.
Still, the knowledge from the West where rumors of strange beings who created gold from iron, and people who gazed into the skies, filled his heart. Clenching his fist, Jun Min raised it to knock thrice on the wooden door.
It cracked open, and a pale female face appeared. She glanced down the alleyway then opened the door wider for Jun Min to slip into the dark hallway. At first, his eyes refused to adjust to the dim light, but eventually, glimmers of light through the cracks in the ceiling could be discerned. “Have others already arrived?”
“No; they are sailors from the ocean,” Song Eun Hye answered. Her father had lived in China for ten years and returned with the Western knowledge which he taught to those who wanted to learn.
Westerners! Here?! “Where are they from?”
“Holland,” Eun Hye said. “They came … wait, you can’t …”
Too late, much too late. He knew they were there, and he wanted to meet them. No, only to see them would be enough. To know there were people beyond the sea, beyond the Ming to the West and the samurai to the East. To know that there were others beyond his limited world.
The two men were fair-skinned like Jun Min, but one had eyes like an ocean, and the other had eyes like a fawn. Both had brown hair, while the fawn had golden brown, and the ocean had reddish brown. They were wider than any man in the city, but they weren’t unhealthy. They wore clothing of blue and tan - blue breeches and tan shirts with strings.
“I apologize, Father,” Eun Hye whispered behind Jun Min. “He came upstairs before I could stop him.”
“Ah, Kim Jun Min,” Song Bum Jun greeted. He was as kind as his daughter was mean. To the Westerners, Song Bum Jun spoke in the stranger guttural language they used. The men laughed at whatever he had said, but beckoned him forward. “They wish to meet my student,” Song Bum Jun explained.
“Now you did it,” Eun Hye muttered.
“Now, now,” her father answered, “let the boy speak with our esteemed guests. It is rare for any of my students to meet someone from so far away.”
“And now that he knows they are here, just how do you expect them to escape, Father?”
Women should not use that tone of voice to any male, let alone daughters to their fathers, but Song Bum Jun seemed unaffected by his daughter’s rebellious attitude. “We will find a way for them to escape. Perchance Kim Jun Min’s arrival was a good thing for all of us.”
With a sigh that echoed in the room, Eun Hye returned downstairs to bring up the tea and rice cakes. She was a strange girl. Though she and Jun Min were both fourteen, she seemed older than he did. She had lived most of her life in China, and spoke Korean with a slight accent. She was exotic in his mundane world, but her exoticness wasn’t attractive, more off-putting. She knew she was different, and she made little effort to be anything else.
Jun Min’s mother said Eun Hye would never find a man because she was too arrogant.
Song Bum Jun said his daughter was brilliant and her intelligence was wasted in Korea by petty minds.
Most likely Jun Min’s mother was one of those petty minds Song Bum Jun despised, not that his teacher ever said anything against his parents, or any of the other people in the city specifically. It was more intuition than anything else. Intuition – the ability to see the puzzle despite the many parts. Song Bum Jun said it was the mark of a brilliant mind.  
“I can help,” Jun Min promised. “What do you need me to do?”
“Good man,” Song Bum Jun answered. “Nothing at the moment, only to keep the knowledge you have learned secret for the time being.”
I do that already, Jun Min grumbled in his mind. After all, he could die if anyone found out about his lessons with Song Bum Jun. If anyone learned about his teacher giving the lessons, not only could Song Bum Jun die, but his daughter as well. Even if Eun Hye was annoying, she shouldn’t have to die because she knew more than other people did.
“For now, Jun Min, it is time for your lesson.”
Two days later, the wind wasn’t as strong, but it still blew. It was colder too. Snow coated the ground, and danced in the air. According to the two Dutch sailors, it was almost Christmastime, a time of celebration and merriment.
“We should leave in the fortnight,” Piers, the ocean-eyed one, said.
“Agreed,” Matthew, the fawn, answered. “If we can make it to China than we should be good to go.”
Their Korean was understandable, though accented. Apparently, they had met Song Bum Jun in China, and a year with him and Eun Hye before returning home. They were on their way back to China, but had been swept into the shoreline where they stumbled into a fishing village. The locals had mistaken them for demons, and attempted to kill them, but the men managed to escape. At the next village, they inquired about Song Bum Jun, and were directed to him.
 “I managed to secure a boat for you,” Song Bum Jun explained. “It sails in a fortnight, but the magistrate announced a building by building search for illegal books.”
“Then we should leave before you are discovered.”
Song Bum Jun shrugged. “I doubt if it will prevent anything. Most likely they knew about you, and are using the books as an excuse. More importantly, is to have you both escape. Your lives are worth more than my books.”
“What about your life, though?” Matthew pressed. “You need to continue teaching.”
“I can teach,” Eun Hye said.
Song Bum Jun patted his daughter’s head. “Of course you can.”
Eun Hye ducked her head away from her father’s reach. “You say that as if you don’t believe it.”
Her father only smiled.
"What do you need me to do, Sir?" Jun Min volunteered.
"Nothing. You will remain here for your lesson. Eun Hye knows the paths better than any of us. She will lead the men away." Song Bum Jun motioned for them to prepare.
A short time later, the house was now empty of three people, though one would most likely return.
The door shook.
Song Bum Jun rose to open for the soldiers.
"We're hunting illegal books," the first soldier said.
Song Bum Jun stepped out of the way, allowing the five soldiers to ransack his home.
The soldiers found nothing, but that did not dissuade them from destroying what they did find.
"How could you let them do that?"

Song Bum Jun shrugged and began to pick up the pieces. "What else can we do, Jun Min? The king refuses to acknowledge that others bring great knowledge as well. He has fallen into the pride of believing we are the only ones who know anything. It will ultimately be his downfall, but until that time, we simply keep living. Learning, my boy, is as much about gaining knowledge as it is how to use the knowledge you've gained."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

When Time Forgets

This short story is more of a character study for a minor character from my NaNoWriMo 2015 (the same book that The Long Way Home is from). I hope you enjoy.  

"Saw your mom today while I was out." The classy octogenarian Korean woman spoke into the cellphone she held in her right hand, while with her left, she flagged a passing Seoul taxi.
"She didn't recognize me," the woman informed her husband of sixty-odd years.
"We knew this day could come eventually, Naomi," the aged voice on the other end answered. "I didn't expect it to be today, though."
"I don't think any of us actually expected it," Naomi answered. "She was just sitting there. I walked over, said hello. Those brilliant blue eyes stared at me, and she smiled. Thought I was some crazy old woman come to talk to the bright young thing."
"Bright young thing? Never expected Mom to be called that ever again."
"She was all of thirty years."
"Thirty. It is near time, isn't it?" He paused. "I suppose your mother was trying to find her birth parents."
"Your mom said they might wander down to Gwangju. I told her they would love it there. I showed her the picture of the two of them at Niagara Falls. She didn't realize I was talking about them. Thought I was talking about some random women."
"She'll remember eventually."
A taxi slowed down. Inside, Naomi told the driver to go to the train station.
"When will you arrive home?" Her husband asked.
"Two hours or so. I planned to return to the hotel, but after this encounter ... I want to come home. She'll leave again. Almost like dying twice, I suppose."
"It'll be for the best, I think."
"I didn't think it would hurt so much to talk with her. To see her like that. I wish you had come up to Seoul with me."
"I would have been a blithering idiot, Naomi. Neither of us needed that. You were always the sensible one who could handle anything that happened.” His voice cracked. He paused to collect himself. “Did you at least get a photograph?"
Naomi snorted. "Of course I did."
"Joo-won will pester you the entire trip home for that photo. Our grandson the scholar. He's to meet you at the train station."
"All right." Naomi fell silent. "She looked lost."
"No, mine. I could see her talking with a couple. How do you tell them that everything will change? They'll lose their ways, find a new life, and live it to the fullest extent. They'll have grandchildren and great-grandchildren? They'll laugh and cry. They will find love in the strangest ways. How do I tell a thirty-year-old woman this when she believes she's visiting Korea for a short holiday while her best friend finds herself?"
"Time travel is tricky, my dear. Mom always said that. Sometimes you roll well, and sometimes you flunk." He sighed. "But at least you got to see them both, one last time."
"Our lives are nearing their end, and theirs are just beginning."
"Take heart, my love. For them, we don't even exist yet, and one day, Mom will remember back to the day she talked with you, and smile. I think you gave her the strength to make it."
"That's enough then. Ah, I'm at the train station. I'll be home in a couple hours." She looked at her wristwatch. "Have you felt the world change? They just went through the painting."