Writing: Short Story Excerpt
Word Count: 2396
I have gray eyes. Green eyes. Brown eyes. Gray sees the surface world, green sees the secrets underneath this world. And brown? Brown sees past this world, into another reality.
Brushing a dust-web aside, I peered down the next tunnel. Again all I saw was darkness. "This looks like the only way forward," I said, turning around in the small dead-end hallway. "Gillian?"
My brother's girlfriend appeared next to me quietly and lifted her hands before her. She pulled the darkness from the tunnel, and a very dim, sourceless light emitted throughout. It was long, dry, and lined with stone and brick, but I could hear water tricking faintly in the distance. My brother still stared at the dead end, raising the lantern to search for inscriptions on the wall. Finding none, he turned to the right wall, and finally to us, standing against the left wall. "Nothing," he replied and peered down the tunnel I'd found. "Guess we're going this way then. I'll go first again. Gillian, you next."
We nodded and I looked at the walls in the dead end again. I was certain there was something here, even with the tunnel. "Violet?" Gillian asked, already crawling through the path. "Are you coming?"
"One moment. Go on. I'll be right there," I replied, stepping in front of the other two walls. I closed my eyes and concentrated for a moment before opening them again. To the onlooker, it would seem I had just changed my eye color from it's usual dark gray to green. But that was not all I had changed. The dead-end hall was still a dead-end chamber, but it was a faint monotone. And the mark-less brick walls were glowing with inscriptions on them. "Utah? There's some writing here you might want to see."
There was a grumble and a plentiful amount of grumbling from him before Gillian came out again, stepping to the ground. She handed me a pad of paper and a pen and I copied the glyphs on the wall down, making sure to get every mark right before handing it to him. I blinked again, feeling my eyes strain, and instantly they returned to gray and my headache eased.
Utah handed Gillian the lamp and she held it over the pad while he thought, moving his finger around as if he was drawing the glyphs. "To the adventurer awaits a challenge. To the pathfinder awaits a road." he said, translating the first two lines of text. "Through the pipe to victory ahead. Find the victim that was stowed."" he finished, lowering the pad. He took the lantern back and gave Gillian back the pad. "What's that supposed to mean?"
I thought about the message for a while and finally said, "Well, Gillian's a pathfinder." She shrugged; she did enjoy exploring, but did not see herself exactly as one of the skilled pathfinders. "I suppose you're the adventurer then," I continued to my brother. "You're the one that wanted to come down here anyways." He gave me a shrug as well.
"Well that was pointless," he finally said, looking at the walls.
"We did get a caveat though," Gillian said softly, preparing to crawl back through the tunnel again. "And warnings are always helpful. "
"It doesn't exactly tell us anything new," he muttered, following her. I looked around again and crawled after him.
It wasn't hard crawling though the "pipe"; I didn't know what Utah was grumbling about. It got a little uncomfortable when we neared the end, for there were puddles of water every few paces, but that was at most an annoyance.
We reached the end and found ourselves in a wide open room with a large circular pool in the center. A massive orb-statue on a pedestal in the center of the pool, and water poured out of of small holes in the pedestal's base, supplying the green pool. From two more little holes water seeped into the pedestal. Each hole was secured so that no one could use the hole as a way to crack the statue. I stepped forward towards it, following Gillian and Utah. They stopped where the sea-green water lapped on the black tile floor and stared around them.
"Violet, what do you see?" Gillian asked quietly.
The chamber was huge, black and green, and smelled strange. It was damp, and empty but for the statue. Light was emitted from a ring on the top of the pedestal, which threw long shadows on our figures. The walls were smooth stone, and even when I switched to my green-eyed vision I could see nothing on them. The corners of my vision glowed with green light, but that was usual and I ignored it, scanning the room. I looked at everything, searching for a discrepancy between visions. Aside from vertical black stripes down the orb- part of the statue and amorphous red streaks in the water, I discovered nothing. I shook my head, reverting my vision to usual.
Gillian was looking at the pad again and muttered the poem quietly: "To the adventurer awaits a challenge."
My brother set the lantern down and unsheathed his sword, stepping gingerly into the water and walking towards the statue.
"To the pathfinder awaits a road." Gillian began walking around the pool, scrutinizing the smooth surface of the statue, undecorated but for a few rings. She looked down every so often, reading the the lines of the poem. Her voice echoed in the room a little, creating an unsettling effect.
"Through the pipe to victory ahead."
I peered back the way we had come and saw nothing changed. Turning back to the chamber we were in I switched my vision again to green and peered closely at the pedestal. I peered closer at the water and saw the brick road that Utah had been walking on; the path stretched from where I was to the pedestal and formed a small ring around the base. Off the road I could see glimmers of brick every so often and gaps in other, though I couldn't tell if that was a defect of my vision or an honest gap of path there.
"Find the victim that was stowed."
Utah had reached the pedestal now and was walking around it, sticking close to the base and glaring at it. The water reached his ankles, but he was wearing tall boots and didn't notice it at all. I took a few steps on the path and once I was sure where it was, returned my vision to normal to avoid draining too much energy.
"Nothing," he finally said, returning to the main path.
It was a wide road but he still stepped aside. "Completely smooth."
"Be careful," I warned. "I think there may be a gap of path just beyond the pedestal base."
He nodded, sloshing water as he made his way back to the lantern. He suddenly slipped and flailed for balance, using his legs to keep him afloat. Gillian's shriek echoed loudly around the room and it looked like she was about to chase after him until I caught his hand. With his free hand he tossed his sword onto the path, where it lay, barely visible under the water. "Don't run through the water, he warned Gillian when she stepped into it. "Go around. Go to where I started." She did as he said and reached me quickly. Together we hefted him out of the water.
Dripping wet, he picked up his sword and tried to dry it by wiping his clothes only to see that his clothes were more drenched. "There're holes in the pool," he confirmed and I nodded, understanding the gaps now. He looked at me expectantly and I clarified:
"It seemed there is a wide path here, leading from"--I pointed to where the lantern still sat--"there to here. There's a small gap of path beyond the path, and then the path resumes for another strip. Beyond that I am not sure where there is path. And then there is the tile floor.”
GIllian nodded, holding on to Utah worriedly. I walked closer to the pedestal and touched it smooth surface, walking around as my brother had. I ran my fingers lightly across it and switched my vision again “What are you?” I murmured quietly. Up close I saw small, a few light rings that passed around the pedestal; each of them glowed faintly, so faintly I would have missed it if I were not so close. “Why are you here?”
I returned to the front of the pedestal and pressed my hand against it, staring at it as if it would suddenly say something. “Where is Saria Lithe?” I muttered quietly. Then suddenly, next to my hand a single word gleamed into existence. Each letter was perfectly made mark of calligraphy and the word emitted a faint glow in my vision.
I lifted my hand from the statue in shock and the word vanished immediately, fading into the rock. Hurriedly, I reverted my vision and pressed my hand against the rock again. “Where is Saria Lithe?” I repeated, clearly.
The word reappeared, etched in the stone, and faded slowly away until I took my hand from it.
“Who’s Saria Lithe?”
“Sapphire’s mother,” I replied quickly. “Sapphire said that she was looking into her. Come over here.”
“How is it her mother’s surname is Lithe, her father’s is Lyne and her’s is Lilliane?” Utah wondered aloud, crossing over to me. I ignored the comment and pressed my palm against the stone again. “Where is Saria Lithe?”
It looked like the pedestal was annoyed by my asking the same question over and over and I retracted my hand once I was sure Gillian and Utah had seen the carving.
“Looks like we’re finally getting somewhere,” my brother said. He stepped forward and pushed his hand against the cold stone. “Where is Sapphire Lilliane?”
For a moment there was no response and finally the carving said:
“Nonexistent?” Gillian asked, turning to me suspiciously. Utah was about to drop his hand when the word faded and another line of text came up.
This too faded and Utah removed his hand and turned towards us. “Violet,” he said firmly. “What else did she tell you?”
“Why are you running?”
She hung her head. She had started growing her hair out and hadn’t cut it for almost a year; it pooled by her shoulders, but more importantly covered her face. Especially the eyes.
Kyson manor was on the outskirts of Aldenzeve, Gillian’s, Utah’s and my hometown. My brother and I were just within the range of the shield that separated us from the humans, but far enough to avoid the hub-bub of the city, as Gillian had to deal with on a daily basis because he uncle owned an inn. Sapphire Lilliane had come to Aldenzeve praying shelter, and when the city itself was hesitant, my parents opened up Kyson manor for her. And over a few months, she had become my friend, of sorts.
Then came that group, led by the boy, Syne Darrett. There had been a great clash and destruction when they had come, although it was well known that they were not the cause. And then Sapphire had vanished.
“I can trust you right?”
“Of course.” I tensed, expecting a revelation of great importance.
She was quiet for a moment before pulling her hair back and saying, “I’m running from a boy. I love him—at least, I think I used to love him—but I can’t be near him.”
“Why? Does he…cause you pain?”
“Not me. But the rest of the world. I’ve separated myself so I can pursue Red Shadow on my own. No one here knows the Nekaitian dictator as well as I did, and I’m sure I can bring him down.”
“What do you mean the rest of the world?”
“It’s very complicated, Violet. But I realized that the world was bigger than the two of us—that our little curse was bigger than just the two of us.”
“Not yet,” she murmured quietly before saying more clearly, “Violet, all I know is ever since I met that boy, something has been growing. By distancing us I hope I have stopped that creature’s growth, but I need to destroy that thing before it destroys us.”
She shook her head and her hair fell over her eyes again. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “She—she said she was running. From Syne, I suppose, but I don’t know why.”
“Could she be the victim that was stowed?” Gillian asked, staring at the pad of paper.
“She could, couldn’t she?” Utah asked, glancing at it. “What’s our mission? Our mission was to find her. Sapphire Lilliane. ‘Through the pipe to victory ahead.’ So we’re going to succeed, the message is telling us. But…how?”
I shut my eyes and leaned against the pedestal, my head swimming from memories and words and the riddle on the wall. I pressed the back of my hand to my forehead and my other hand against the stone for support. “I don’t know,” I repeated.
Suddenly the path underneath me moved and the narrow path joined the outer ring. The main path retreated, shaking the ground until the lantern lost balance and fell over; it would have fallen into the water if it weren’t for the rectangular frame around the light. Gillian leapt away from the path and Utah caught her as they balanced on the narrow strip of path. Once it merged with the outer ring they stepped onto it quickly, concerned about any other attacks. The pedestal of the statue lowered but the orb remained where it was, floating in the air. It made no motion, even as the pedestal sank into the pool, leaving nothing but the glowing ring above the surface. All was silent.
“Violet…what did you do!” my brother exclaimed, half-angry, half exhilarated, and half just confused. He brandished his sword around him, holding on to Gillian with one arm. I reached into my sleeves and touched the twin pink fans I had secured there, glancing around me worriedly.
From the ring came a splash as something sprung from its depths.
Artist's Note: HI PEople! Super late update, but at least there is one, yeah?
This is party one of a short story that I'm writing based on the first prompt in Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine.
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