The Grey Room

Poltan forces are invading Malizan allies and declaring war against the most powerful country in the world. Yet as they start to suffer, the pressure on Maliz is straining in their fight for freedom and Justice.

At sixteen, Ida dreams of fighting and escaping from her life of royalty and expectation. When her brother leaves with his wondrous discovery left at the palace, she jumps at the chance to prove herself. So begins the journey that will change her and show Ida the truths that will reveal her heritage as she experiences things beyond her imagination: Sirens, Phoenix's and the thief of her heart

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6. Chapter 6

I shivered. We had followed the river for two days till it exploded into the sea, a huge expanse of blues washed with twinkling whites nearer the surf. The wind was hellish. It whipped against our backs and flung yards of hair into our eyes making it hard to see, making us blind to the path ahead. But, as you stood at the edge, with naked feet a step away from being swallowed in the water, it was worth the mayhem. Beauty clouded the single spot of peace along the sand and stone ridden beach as the frosted sea sent shivers along my body, cooling the heat that still ran through it from Cináed.         

That night, that’s where I was, watching the setting sun turn our small world into blackness and dragging the colours of beauty and fascination with it. Swirling powder paints against a deep blood red lacerated the twilight sky above me.

            I was staring up at the sky, where it met the earth on the horizon, when I felt a presence behind me. It was weird, that sensation, a sort of fuzzy awareness that I’d had since I could remember.

            Closing my eyes, I felt the impression of the person move to my side. I didn’t hear a sound from them, only the clashing of the waves and the wailing of the salty wind. My head shot to the side as my brain registered the silence, the danger, the unknown. It was Cináed.

Blinking, I observed his profile, not bothering to turn my head back around. He just stayed there, staring out, as if he could see more than what was in front of us, as if he could see the future or people on the other side of the world.

Swallowing, I saw him concentrate, the smallest frown between his perfectly shaped eyebrows appeared and he turned to face me.

            My breath caught as his eyes held mine. Such control, such power radiated from them, leaving my body immobile and vulnerable. He didn’t say a word and yet I knew how much he embodied, I could feel the beast inside of him; I could feel the hatred of the phoenix.

            Slowly, I shook myself trying to get out of the trance, but all I managed was a squeak. “Why were you alone?” It sounded feeble to my ears, like a piece of dirt had suddenly spoken to me. His body still tensed in response to my words and his eyes shadowed.

            “What do you know of Phoenix’s?” A voice sounded in the wind. It took me a moment to realise it had come from him. My eyes widened. I had struck a nerve or something delicate on a stone fortress.

            “Not enough.” I answered with more force. Clenching his jaw, he changed the subject.

            “There’s a small village a mile from here. It would be easier to go by boat and it has ferries going to and from there.”

This surprised me and I fully regained control as business misted my brain. It was my turn to frown.

“How did you know this?”

“I’ve been a lot of places.” His answer was short. All his answers were short. I gazed at his face, noticing for the first time the secrets that roamed behind his thick exterior.

“We’re going to need to hire a sailor. I don’t think anyone here knows how to sail. I guess we could also pick up some supplies from the market.” I pondered, running my hand through my hair. He never took his eyes off me as I spoke. It would have unnerved me if I hadn’t been distracted. “We’ve wasted enough time at this coast.”

“Ida?”

Swinging round, I faced a grinning Finn with his curly brown hair waving wildly about his stubbled face. Holding his hand about to me, he took a few steps forward, laughing as he did so.

“I’ve got something to show you ginger.” His pet name for me made me cringe, but I took his hand as he started running across the corroded mountains.

He took me near the other side of the beach, around a corner of the cliff which made a large shadow across the surf. The waves seemed to crash and bellow louder than over the other side, and the stench of salt a lot thicker. I looked out at what he’d found.

            “What...?” I stammered, staring out at a cave. You’re not going to take me in there and kill me are you?” I joked as doubt creped inside me.

            “Of course I am.” Rolling his eyes he put his arm round my waist and took me further into the prevailing darkness. “While you were talking to happy, I was looking around, prowling the area. I just happened to stumble across this.”

            “Happy?” I enquired, unhinged as we stumbled further. Clutching his hand, I felt for my sword which swung against my left leg.

            “Cináed.” He answered distracted. “You know, because he’s always smiling.”

            I raised an eyebrow. The intensity of the dark seemed to grow each footstep I took with Finn holding my waist. After a while there was no light at all and every noise was faded back an till all that could be heard was the pounding of our hearts, the echo of our breaths and our scuffed footfall. I put my trust into Finn, he seemed to know where to go, like an in print in his memory.

            “How long did you say you’ve known about this place?” I looked at him, or more turned my head and stared in front of me where I felt the heat of his body.

            “A few hours tops. Pretty cold down here.” I felt him shiver and pull me closer.

            “Why are you lying to me?”

He stopped. After a few breaths he let go of me and started making scuffing noises as sparks flew, giving me glimpses of the damp rock and Finn’s strong hands as he scraped together pieces of flint over wood. After a few minutes it caught fire.

            “I coated it in oil before we came out.” He answered my questioning gaze he could now see.

            We let the silence hang for a second as we looked at each other. There was something more to him then I realised, he wasn’t just the soldier who seemed so carefree and open. I started to see it then, the real Finn, the one with a history, a past. A chip buried beneath his shoulder blade.

            “They killed my family. Slaughtered them. I was ten at the time, but it all begun years before, maybe even years before my mother. I was born in Nelt, my family had lived there for years before we moved to Maliz, it was our heritage, our lives. But we couldn’t stay in fear of our lives, which was ironic really. It was…”his voice faded off.

            After a moment or two in silence he carried on, slower this time. “Mamunik.”

            The name hung in the air like a bad odour, circling us as if the Politan leader had sent it himself.

            “What’s this cave got to do with you?”

            “It’s where we fled. We weren’t sure if you would hand us straight back, you were allies then.”

            “Yes. I remember.” And I did, vaguely. It was more an irritant in the side of my mind than a memory, but that’s what most occurrences in my life were degraded to.

            “I had to tell someone eed, eventually. When I saw the beach… I thought it might have been a sign that now was the time.” He looked nervous suddenly. Pulling at my hand he started to lead me away from his cold childhood. “We should get to the town as soon as possible. It’s bad hanging around places like this.”

            I allowed him to drag me out into the fading light and screaming winds, I let him start to forget.

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